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January 4, 1971

The World Stops for the Hungry

Author Affiliations

AMA Council on Foods and Nutrition Chicago

JAMA. 1971;215(1):110-111. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03180140074014

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The threat of intellectual impairment in malnourished infants has been a political petard breaking down resistance to maternal and child welfare feeding programs. That the case has frequently been overstated in the heat of political debate and rhetoric of presidential messages is forgivable in light of the social progress which has ensued. Until recently, it has been politically fashionable to dogmatically equate malnutrition in childhood with physical and mental retardation. It is true that severe undernutrition during the latter stages of pregnancy and the first few months of life will jeopardize mental and physical development. In an older child, however, nutritional deprivation may create only a maturational lag; ie, with time, the child may overcome the handicap.

Malnutrition as a deterrent to social progress should not be taken lightly. Malnutrition can be involved directly or indirectly in the initiation and perpetuation of a disheartened, listless segment of a population, thus