Whoops! – Where does that leave me writ­ing my blog at ‘mal’-ipunations!!! What are ‘ipunations’ any­way? Phew! I think it’s OK because malipuna­tions is just a made up word! 

A recent British study sug­gests that with ris­ing obe­si­ty rates mil­lions of Britons may also be suf­fer­ing from ‘mal’-nutrition.

The pre­fix ‘mal’ in ‘mal’-nutrition is from the French word ‘mal’ mean­ing just about any­thing bad.

‘Mal’-nutrition has been on my radar for some time because it’s not just in third world coun­tries any­more, it’s on our doorstep. 

Nutri­tion has always been on my radar but it got high­er on my per­son­al list (not just on my list for my chil­dren) when I had severe PMS and attend­ed a pro­gramme in Mia­mi run by a lady doc­tor who also had PMS – how wise she was! 

What I remem­ber most from her very use­ful talks, cov­er­ing more than just diet, is the state­ment “lettuce is not a green veg­etable”!! In oth­er words, despite the fact that you may eat sal­ad every day there isn’t much nutri­tion going into your body! You actu­al­ly need real green vegetables! 

You won’t notice tod­dlers who are still nurs­ing at 2 years old (their moth­ers have to be more cir­cum­spect) but you will see a lot of two year olds still on their bot­tles. Many are in fact sur­viv­ing only on many bot­tles of cow’s milk each day. There’s a big dif­fer­ence in the nutri­tion­al val­ues of breast milk and cow’s milk. 

Most breast­fed 2 year olds are actu­al­ly wean­ing them­selves and tak­ing por­tions of real food dur­ing the day and they tend to lose all their plump­ness once they start walk­ing at about a year.

Those bot­tle fed babies ‘look’ fine, in many cas­es they don’t look obese, they may still have baby fat though. Unless you pick up a child who was bot­tle-fed for a long time you won’t realise how sol­id, heavy or dense they feel – I think their bones are heav­ier than in breast­fed babies. Just anoth­er the­o­ry. But they prob­a­bly look good on the graph of height and weight that pedi­a­tri­cians keep to reas­sure them­selves and par­ents they are doing a good job!

We are reach­ing a sec­ond or third gen­er­a­tion that has been ‘mal’-nourished – they all look pret­ty good, if some­what over­weight – check out all those pot­bel­lies. Regret­tably I have known many afflu­ent mid­dle class fam­i­lies where the adults and chil­dren have no con­cept of nutri­tion. I don’t pre­tend to have done the best job with my own chil­dren, but I do think they under­stand what con­sti­tutes good nutrition. 

Is it sur­pris­ing that the grand­daugh­ter of a woman who nev­er cooks had nev­er seen an apple until she was shown one by her care­giv­er when she was 16 months old? The grand­daugh­ter still shows social and oth­er delays at near­ly 6 years of age. What I also recall is that as a behav­iour­al chal­lenge to her fam­i­ly this child was sel­dom if ever tak­en to a super­mar­ket, nev­er mind that the par­ents nev­er bought fruit because they didn’t eat it themselves! 

Is it sur­pris­ing that the kitchen is still gat­ed off in a house­hold with a 2 year old and a 4 year old? The 2 year old is still just hav­ing bot­tles of cow’s milk every day – very lit­tle in the way of real food. Did I men­tion that both chil­dren in this fam­i­ly have lan­guage delays and the old­est has behav­iour­al issues too?

In anoth­er house­hold the chil­dren will ask for an apple or yogurt as evening snacks and they know where to find them in the fridge. There are no devel­op­men­tal delays in this household.

Could there be a con­nec­tion between developmental/behavioural delays and ‘mal’-nutrition?

Would you think prob­lem child/behavioural issues if you saw a 3 or 4 year old lick­ing the edge of the meat counter in your local super­mar­ket or would you think prob­lem parent/behavioural issues when you saw and heard her moth­er yell at her to stop? Or both? 

I think ‘mal’-nutrition just reflects a parent’s lack of inter­est in and atten­tion to their child’s growth and devel­op­ment; just like ‘mal’-behaviours (except that isn’t a real word – per­haps it should be?). Per­haps we should start anoth­er new word ‘mal’-parenting.

My asser­tion is that there is a cor­re­la­tion between ‘mal’-nutrition and obe­si­ty and devel­op­men­tal delays. The prob­lem is that ‘mal’-nutrition doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly show up these days in its tra­di­tion­al form in the pediatrician’s office.

I’m sure the pic­ture that comes to mind with the word ‘mal’-nutrition is some­one who looks anorex­ic. But ‘mal’-nutrition is some­thing as sim­ple as a well mean­ing par­ent of a child with autism get­ting their child to take his vit­a­mins – with a cup of lemon/lime soda!! Pret­ty oxy­moron­ic behav­iour from a nurse (the mother’s profession!) 

Tra­di­tion­al­ly one thinks of ‘mal’-nutrition only being in low­er socioe­co­nom­ic groups or third world coun­tries, but four of the five fam­i­lies men­tioned here are all afflu­ent mid­dle class ‘living the good life’ and the par­ents are col­lege graduates.

In my opin­ion, and expe­ri­ence, good nutri­tion affects the dai­ly out­comes in all pop­u­la­tions from infants to autism spec­trum, to Down’s syn­drome, to stroke patients in their 90’s, those with Alzheimer’s in their 90’s, and adult rehab patients. 

Good nutri­tion pos­i­tive­ly and quick­ly affects brain func­tion and behav­iour in all ages, dis­abil­i­ties and all countries.

Let’s get ‘mal’ out of our vocabulary.