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Nutritional and health-related environmental studies

From the IAEA Division of Human Health

Proper nutrition

Nutrition for health along the
course of life.
(Photo series: C. Slater, IAEA)

Proper nutrition is fundamental to health for all age groups. Nearly every country in the world is affected by malnutrition and many countries experience multiple burdens of it. Appropriate nutrition during the first one thousand days from conception to two years of age has a profound impact on a child's ability to grow, learn and have a productive life. Poor nutrition in childhood also increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and heart disease, later in life.

Why are nutritional and health-related environmental studies so important?

Proper nutrition is fundamental to health for all age groups. Nearly every country in the world is affected by malnutrition and many countries experience multiple burdens of it. Appropriate nutrition during the first one thousand days from conception to two years of age has a profound impact on a child's ability to grow, learn and have a productive life. Poor nutrition in childhood also increases the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes and heart disease, later in life.

  • One out of every ten children born in low income countries will die before the fifth birthday as a result of malnutrition;
  • Nearly every country in the world is affected by malnutrition and many countries experience multiple burdens of it;
  • Undernutrition (including suboptimum breastfeeding, stunting, wasting, deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc) causes 45% of child mortality annually;
  • Overweight and obesity are increasing globally, contributing to diabetes and other NCDs in adulthood;
  • Almost three quarters of all deaths resulting from NCDs occur in low and middle income countries.

What is the role of the IAEA?

The IAEA's work complements the work being undertaken by UN agencies, NGOs and other stakeholders in the field of nutrition and health, by encouraging the use of nuclear techniques to develop and evaluate interventions to combat malnutrition in all its forms. The IAEA contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals of ending poverty, malnutrition, and ensuring healthy lives, by supporting the application of stable (non-radioactive) isotope techniques in the following areas:

  • Infant and young child feeding;
  • Childhood obesity;
  • Maternal and adolescent nutrition;
  • Healthy ageing;
  • Diet quality;
  • Environmental impact on nutrition and health.

Stable isotope techniques can be used to assess:

  • Exclusive breastfeeding practices;
  • Changes in body composition;
  • Physical activity and energy expenditure
  • Energy requirements;
  • Protein and amino acid requirements;
  • Micronutrient bioavailability;
  • Vitamin A status.