Open Access Ecological approaches to human nutrition

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Abstract:

Background. Malnutrition affects a large number of people throughout the developing world. Approaches to reducing malnutrition rarely focus on ecology and agriculture to simultaneously improve human nutrition and environmental sustainability. However, evidence suggests that interdisciplinary approaches that combine the knowledge bases of these disciplines can serve as a central strategy in alleviating hidden hunger for the world's poorest.

Objective. To describe the role that ecological knowledge plays in alleviating hidden hunger, considering human nutrition as an overlooked ecosystem service.

Methods. We review existing literature and propose a framework that expands on earlier work on econutrition. We provide novel evidence from case studies conducted by the authors in western Kenya and propose a framework for interdisciplinary collaboration to alleviate hidden hunger, increase agricultural productivity, and improve environmental sustainability.

Results. Our review supports the concept that an integrated approach will impact human nutrition. We provide evidence that increased functional agrobiodiversity can alleviate anemia, and interventions that contribute to environmental sustainability can have both direct and indirect effects on human health and nutritional well-being.

Conclusions. Integrated and interdisciplinary approaches are critical to reaching development goals. Ecologists must begin to consider not only how their field can contribute to biodiversity conservation, but also, the relationship between biodiversity and provisioning of nontraditional ecosystem services such as human health. Likewise, nutritionists and agronomists must recognize that many of the solutions to increasing human well-being and health can best be achieved by focusing on a healthy environment and the conservation of ecosystem services.

Keywords: ANEMIA; BIODIVERSITY; CONSERVATION; ECOSYSTEM SERVICES; MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS; POVERTY ALLEVIATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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