Malnutrition caused by deficiencies of vitamins and minerals is also known as "hidden hunger", because most of the people affected by it do not show the physical symptoms usually associated with hunger and malnutrition.
"For several decades it has been known that micronutrient deficiency - the lack of key vitamins and minerals - brings anemia, cretinism and blindness to tens of millions of people. But the news of the last decade is that these manifestations are but the tip of a very large iceberg. Levels of mineral and vitamin deficiency that have no clinical symptoms, and that were previously thought to be of relatively little importance, can and do impair intellectual development, cause ill health and early death on an almost unthinkable scale, and condemn perhaps a third of the world to lives lived below their physical and mental potential."
Source: Vitamin & Mineral Deficiency, A global Progress Report. The Micronutrient Initiative and UNICEF.
Hidden hunger is therefore a global problem of enormous magnitude that, until recently, was largely ignored. In part this is because micronutrient deficiency is a 'new' problem, the true scale and consequences of which are at last receiving the attention they deserve.
What causes hidden hunger?
In many countries, poor people consume the same starchy foods (such as rice, corn or wheat flour) every day. While such a diet may have enough calories to ease the pangs of hunger, it does not provide the micronutrients needed for good health. A balanced diet, containing adequate amounts of all essential micronutrients, includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, pulses, dairy, eggs and possibly other foods from animal sources. People who do not consume such foods for any reason, (cost, availability, traditions, ignorance, etc) will sooner or later develop hidden hunger.