Many individuals living in impoverished regions also live in what experts call “food deserts”, where individuals have poor access to fresh food but may have plentiful processed foods available?
. Residents thus often purchase many processed and unhealthy foods. Beyond this accessibility issue, the purchase of these products is also mediated by the overall lower cost of energy-dense foods. Therefore, even if someone with a low socioeconomic status has access to fresh foods, they may be buying the more processed foods because they are often cheaper. Lastly, no matter the socioeconomic status, humans are naturally reinforced by the high palatability of sugar and fat in processed foods that are lacking in something like a plate of steamed vegetables?
All of these factors lead to severe malnourishment, a situation where one is supplied with less than the minimum or an unbalanced amount of the nutrients or foods essential for sound health and growth?
. Thus, malnourishment doesn’t necessarily mean starving, this can also mean having an improper amount of certain nutrients, even if one is eating more than enough calories to get by. This segues to one of the greatest issues low-income neighborhoods are facing: residents of low-income neighborhoods are not only eating too many calories because of the unhealthy foods they eat, but they are also not getting enough of the required nutrients for sound health and growth
It is no surprise then that especially in these neighborhoods residents face alarming rates of obesity
. This is most concerning for the children
living in these neighborhoods, as nutritious foods are critical for healthy development. Acute malnutrition is responsible for almost one-third of all deaths in children <5 years of age and causes intellectual or cognitive impairment among those who survive. In terms of organ systems, acute malnutrition causes severe impairment as well as weakened cellular immunity. Beyond bodily functions, acute malnutrition causes a reduction in the numbers of neurons, synapses, dendritic arborizations, and myelinations, all of which resulted in decreased brain size. The cerebral cortex is thinned and brain growth is slowed. Delays in a global function, motor function, and memory have been associated with malnutrition, with all of these effects being irreversible after the age of 3–4 years?
. The effects of malnutrition in children is also seen in the staggering amount go obese children, and it is often in lower-income neighborhoods. A study found that in 2011-2014, among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years, the prevalence of obesity increased as the head of household’s level of education decreased.
Overall, this crisis marks the first time in our history that a generation of American children, especially those in low-income families of color, may face a shorter expected lifespan than their parents due to the epidemic of malnutrition and obesity?
. The link between childhood obesity and poverty is unmistakable. But what has been done to fix this?