Monday, May 10, 2010

Food for Thought, Literally

Last Friday I was listening to a fascinating segment on international adoption on Radio Times. If you listen to the entire hour, you'll hear me asking a question at the end of the show about the long-term effects on malnutrition. Apparently, many children adopted from Ghana suffer from malnutrition and it can vary from mild to severe. Severe malnutrition, often referred to as kwashiorkor, can have long term effects on height, weight, cognitive development, and organ function.

If I'm not mistaken, based on the answer given by the expert on the show, the long-term effects of malnutrition greatly depend on how long a child goes without proper nutrition. For example, a friend of mine who adopted her daughter from Guatemala, says her daughter was so malnourished upon arrival, she could barely speak, eat or move at 12 months. Today, that little girl has hit all of her milestones and loves to eat! This gives me great hope. On the other hand, a woman who is part of the online discussion group for families who have adopted from Ghana, says her children whom she adopted at ages seven and nine, suffer greatly with cognitive function due to their early years without enough to eat. Low IQ scores, ADHD, short-term memory issues... the list seems endless.

But before you go thinking, those poor kids in Ghana, I learned something else about malnutrition and cognitive function. El esposo says he was dealing with kids with those very same issues when he taught in the New York City public schools. "They were given blue Kool-Aid in their baby bottles and then moved on to McDonald's," he said. "They were as difficult to teach as the kids who were born with crack in their systems."

I guess I've always known a healthy diet was important, but when you connect all the dots and see why, it is mind-blowing. What's more, you can't always see malnutrition on the outside of a child. Even in Ghana, sometimes the kids have enough food to fill their bellies but they lack vital proteins. And here in the United States, kids are eating, but what they're eating may be destroying any chance for them to be able to learn.

I don't have any answers on this issue, I just wanted to bring it to you all to chew on. If you are in a position to help children get the nutrition they need, in any way, or even to educate parents on why this is so important, please take the opportunity. And that is today's food for thought.


1 comment:

Gretchen said...

I just found your blog from the Women's Colony. Congrats on your adoption. We have three kiddos all adopted. Our oldest is from Kazakhstan. He was severely malnourished and under stimulated. He resembled a 3 month old at 11 months old. He quickly recovered and at 4 yrs is very smart, healthy boy. Our second child was adopted from the U.S at 17 months old and was at about an 8 month old level developmentally and size wise. He is recovering a bit slower and has some issues that are resolving with time. The effects of environment are amazing to see first hand. It is so sad when they don't get what they need to not only survive but thrive.