Food as a basic necessity of life is one of the vital substances humans depend on to survive and carry out daily tasks. To function optimally, humans require proper nutrients which are ingested, digested, absorbed, and utilized for sustenance of life. On the whole, nutrition deals with the use of nutrients through various biochemical pathways for growth, development, and maintenance.

No doubt that the foods which provide energy and nourishment comes directly or indirectly from plants, of which considerable amounts are from plants such as vegetables or grains; while the livestock sector is also not left out. In some regions, food choices are often limited, and the tendency is to meet caloric demands first, regardless of other nutritional needs. In such situations, people may be undernourished or malnourished.

The term “undernourishment” connotes inadequate caloric intake while the term “malnourishment” refers to the lack of a minimum daily balance of nutrients that may include proteins and essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Undernourished people are likely to be malnourished. Improper diet can lead to starvation, obesity, poisoning, disease, or death.

The deficiency of any essential nutrient leads to specific physiological responses. For example, Kwashiorkor is a disorder caused by protein-calorie malnutrition. Increased susceptibility to infection and disease and stunting of physical and mental growth are common results of poor or inadequate nutrition, especially evident in children.

Improper nutrition results in reduced physical activities and intellectual capacity that limit the productive potential of humans. This is a profound effect, often receiving less attention than some other human malfunctions. Proper nutrition depends on the consumption of a variety of food of sufficient quantity, nutritional quality, and balance that permits growth and maintenance of proper body functions. The body’s nutrient requirement varies with size, age, sex, health, activity, genetic and biochemical characteristics of the individual. Pregnancy and lactation can modify the nutritional requirements of females.

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The Recommended Daily Dietary Allowances established by the National Academy of Science, National Research Council are considered the adequate and safe levels which reflect the current state of nutritional knowledge. Proper diets contain an adequate energy source, nutrients, and other dietary factors such as vitamins and minerals. Carbohydrates, fats, essential fatty acids, and proteins are considered macronutrients. Micronutrients include essential vitamins and mineral elements.

The need to adequately back the agricultural sector cannot be overemphasized, as agriculture is the most vital sector for supporting nutrition-sensitive interventions. The task of addressing malnutrition is daunting but feasible, as long as key sectors are adequately identified and leveraged. By providing 90% of food consumed worldwide, agriculture represents an enormous, but still largely untapped, sector to combat malnutrition. Making best use of agriculture to fight malnutrition will require overcoming institutional and human–capacity constraints and other challenges and, most importantly, joining efforts towards a common approach.

The International Conference on Nutrition in November 2014 highlighted the renewed focus on the role of agriculture in combating malnutrition and gives momentum to the commitment of strengthening the agriculture–nutrition nexus. Without doubt, agriculture is of fundamental importance to human nutrition, both as a direct determinant of household food consumption and through its role in livelihoods and food systems.

There is a growing understanding that agricultural development provides an obvious and needed entry point for efforts to improve nutrition. At the same time, agricultural investments targeted to smallholder farmers are more likely to succeed if they address the human capital constraints due to malnutrition. In the last few years, there has been heightened interest in leveraging agriculture to maximize nutrition impact. If the necessary policies and specifics are put in place, the global malnutrition rate which current is unacceptably high would be reduced to its deflated minimum, or if possible, be eradicated completely.

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Source: AgroNigeria