The global challenge of hidden hunger: perspectives from the field

Proc Nutr Soc. 2021 Aug;80(3):283-289. doi: 10.1017/S0029665121000902. Epub 2021 Apr 26.


The aim of this review paper is to explore the strategies employed to tackle micronutrient deficiencies with illustrations from field-based experience. Hidden hunger is the presence of multiple micronutrient deficiencies (particularly iron, zinc, iodine and vitamin A), which can occur without a deficit in energy intake as a result of consuming an energy-dense, but nutrient-poor diet. It is estimated that it affects more than two billion people worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where there is a reliance on low-cost food staples and where the diversity of the diet is limited. Finding a way to improve the nutritional quality of diets for the poorest people is central to meeting the UN sustainable development goals particularly sustainable development goal 2: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. As we pass the midpoint of the UN's Decade for Action on Nutrition, it is timely to reflect on progress towards achieving sustainable development goal 2 and the strategies to reduce hidden hunger. Many low- and middle-income countries are falling behind national nutrition targets, and this has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other recent shocks to the global food system which have disproportionately impacted the world's most vulnerable communities. Addressing inequalities within the food system must be central to developing a sustainable, cost-effective strategy for improving food quality that delivers benefit to the seldom heard and marginalised communities.

Keywords: Biofortification; Dietary supplementation; Micronutrient intake; Sustainable development goals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • Biofortification
  • COVID-19
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Eating
  • Food Security
  • Food, Fortified
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Hunger*
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Micronutrients / deficiency*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritive Value
  • Poverty
  • United Nations


  • Micronutrients