Resources in Famine, Starvation, and Nutrient Deprivation

  • Rajkumar RajendramEmail author
  • Vinood B. Patel
  • Victor R. Preedy
Living reference work entry


There is no greater major threat to public health worldwide than nutrient deprivation. Presently nutrient deficiency affects around 800 million people worldwide. Since time immemorial nutrient deprivation or overt starvation has caused organ dysfunction or death. Nutrient deficiency is not only the consequence of drought, famines, or civil upheaval. Malnutrition may arise for a number of reasons. For example, some studies have reported that in hospitals as many as half of patients may be malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. The term malnutrition however is very broad and covers undernutrition, imbalance, and overnutrition. This book focuses on the former two umbrellas and coverage ranges from cellular events to public health policies. The detailed molecular events arising from nutrient deprivation are relatively recent discoveries in the overall time scale of research into malnutrition. At the other end of the spectrum, public health policies are constantly being updated to take into account prevailing social, geographical, political, and economic profiles of communities and countries. Within this are policies which encompass future trajectories which aim to prevent famines or undernutrition. Thus there is a complex continuum of knowledge that stretches from our understanding of how molecules in cells behave to the imposition of policies. To further aid colleagues in the acquisition of this knowledge, this chapter lists the resources on the regulatory and professional bodies, journals, books, and websites that are relevant to an evidence-based approach to famine, starvation, and nutrient deficiency, from cells to policy.


Books Evidence Famine Journals Nutrient deprivation Professional societies Regulatory bodies Resources Starvation 


Nutrient deprivation is a major threat to global public health. Starvation is the most extreme nutrient deprivation. It results from severe restriction of dietary energy and macro- and micronutrient intake below that needed to sustain life. Accurate data on the extent of starvation is relatively difficult to obtain. However, less severe nutrient deficiency affects around 815 million people on a global basis (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations et al. 2017).

Famine has caused starvation and nutrient deprivation in humans since time immemorial. However, the understanding of the molecular changes relevant to the effects of worsening nutrient deprivation is relatively recent discoveries in the overall time scale of research in this field. It is important to remember that nutrient deprivation arises in a number of scenarios other than due to famine per se. These include undernutrition due to illness, poverty, societal imbalance, conflict, self-starvation, and so on. Nutrient deprivation is under-recognized in modern medicine and to some extent does not receive the attention it deserves. For example, over 20 years ago, Powell Tuck (1997) highlighted that the prevalence of malnutrition in hospital patients is between 19 and 55% using various criteria. Despite this, undernutrition in the hospital setting still remains problematic (Kruizenga et al. 2016; Morris et al. 2018).

The treatment of starvation and nutrient deprivation may seem obvious and straightforward. However, the relatively recent discovery of the phenomenon known as the refeeding syndrome underlines the importance of gradual replacement of the calorie deficit (Friedli et al. 2017). Yet although refeeding syndrome was described more than 70 years ago, there is still no standard definition or recommendations for its prevention or treatment (Friedli et al. 2017).

Regardless there has recently been an explosion in the knowledge and understanding of nutrient deprivation and starvation. It is now difficult even for experienced scientists to remain up-to-date. To assist colleagues who are interested in understanding more about this field, we have therefore produced tables containing up-to-date resources in this chapter. The expert who assisted with the compilation of these tables of resources is acknowledged below.


Tables 1, 2, 3, and 4 list the most up-to-date information on the regulatory bodies and professional societies (Table 1), journals on nutrient deprivation (Table 2), books (Table 3), and online resources (Table 4) that are relevant to an evidence-based approach to nutrient deprivation.
Table 1

This table lists the regulatory bodies, professional societies, and organizations involved with famine, starvation, and nutrient deprivation

Regulatory bodies, professional societies, and organizations

Action against hunger

American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

Austrian nutrition society

Concern worldwide

Dutch academy of nutritional sciences

Dutch malnutrition steering group

Famine early warning system network

Federation of European Nutrition Societies

Finnish society for nutrition research

Food and agriculture organization

Food fortification initiative (FFI)

German nutrition society

Global alliance for improved nutrition (GAIN)

International zinc nutrition consultative group (IZiNCG)

International Union of Nutritional Sciences (IUNS)

Iodine global network (IGN)

Malnutrition task force

Micronutrient forum

National Institutes of Health

Nutrition international

Secure nutrition

Sight and life

Societe Francaise de nutrition

Swiss society for nutrition

The Danish nutrition society

The hunger project

The nutrition society

United Nations Children’s fund (UNICEF)

United Nations Office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA)

United Nations University

United States Agency for International Development (USAID)


World food Programme

Table 2

Journals publishing original research and review articles related to nutrient deprivation, famine, or starvation. We list the top 20 journals which have published the most number of articles over the past 5 years. Although we used Scopus to generate this list, other databases or the use of refined search terms will produce different results

Journals relevant to nutrient deprivation, famine, or starvation

Plos one

Nutricion Hospitalaria

Clinical nutrition

Scientific reports

The lancet



Journal of nutrition health and aging

Journal of parenteral and enteral nutrition

Nutrition in clinical practice


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Food and nutrition bulletin

European journal of clinical nutrition

Journal of biological chemistry

Maternal and child nutrition

Bioresource technology

Public health nutrition

American journal of clinical nutrition

BMC public health

Table 3

This table lists books on nutrient deprivation due to famine or starvation

Relevant books

Biology of Starvation in Humans and Other Organisms. Merkin TC. Nova science publishers, 2011.

Comparative Physiology of Fasting, Starvation, and Food Limitation. McCue MD. Springer, 2012.

Contemporary Famine Analysis. Rubin O. Springer 2016

Diet, Nutrition, and Fetal Programming. Rajendram R, Preedy VR, Patel VB (editors). Springer, 2017.

Essentials of Pediatric Nutrition. Samour PQ, king K (editors). Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013.

Famine: As a Geographical Phenomenon. Currey C (editor). Springer, 2012

Feast, Famine or Fighting?: Multiple Pathways to Social Complexity. Chacon RJ and Mendoza RG (editors). Springer, 2017

Global Child Health. Subrahmanian K, Swamy P. Springer, 2018.

Malnutrition in Chronic Diet-Associated Infantile Diarrhea: Diagnosis and Management. Lifschitz CH (editor). Academic press, 2013.

Molecular, Genetic, and Nutritional Aspects of Major and Trace Minerals. Collins JF. Academic press, 2016.

Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease, 4th ed. Coulston AM, Boushey CJ, Ferruzzi M, Delahanty L (editors). Elsevier, 2017.

Pediatric Nutrition, 4th ed. Samour PQ, king K (editors). Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012.

Practice-Based Nutrition Care, An Issue of Medical Clinics of North America, Kahan S, Kushner RF. Elsevier, 2016.

Present Knowledge in Nutrition, 10th ed. Erdman JW, Macdonald IA, Zeisel SH. ILSI press, 2012.

Protein-Calorie Malnutrition. Olson R (editor). Academic press, 2012.

Searching for Medical Truths. Metabolism in health and disease states: Obesity, alcoholism, diabetes and starvation. Owen OE. Infinity publishing.Com, 2006.

Starvation: New Insights for the Healthcare Professional. QA Acton. Scholarly editions, 2012.

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. Building resilience for peace and food security. Food and agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s fund (UNICEF), the world food Programme (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO). FAO, Rome, 2017.

The Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health. Combs Jr. GF, McClung JP. Academic press, 2017.

Table 4

This table lists some internet resources relevant to nutrient deprivation, famine, or starvation. Sites listed in Table 1 may also have tools or resources within them. For example, the NIH listed in Table 1 will have information on dietary reference intakes (DRIs), nutrition in cancer care, screening tools, and so on within the domain of its websites

Relevant online resources and information

Detecting and managing malnutrition: Malnutrition universal screening tool (MUST)

Demographic and health surveys program

Dutch malnutrition steering group – Screening tools

e-library of evidence for nutrition actions (eLENA)

Evidence-informed policy network (EVIPNet)

Food and agricultural organization – Fighting famine

Food and nutrition technical assistance – Measuring household food insecurity

Food Standards Agency

Global database on the implementation of nutrition action (GINA)

Global fortification data exchange

Global targets 2025

International clinical trials registry platform (ICTRP)

Landscape analysis on countries’ readiness to accelerate action in nutrition

Malnutrition task force – Resources

Nutrition landscape information system (NLiS)


The British nutrition foundation-resources

The World Bank

UNICEF data: DefInfo

UNICEF data: Monitoring the situation of children and women

UNICEF-WHO-World Bank joint child malnutrition estimates 2017

WHO child growth standards

WHO country profiles

WHO global data Bank on infant and young child feeding

WHO global database on child growth and malnutrition

WHO mortality database

WHO tracking tool

WHO vitamin and mineral nutrition information system (VMNIS)

Summary Points

  • Nutrient deprivation is a major threat to global public health.

  • Starvation is the most extreme nutrient deprivation.

  • Nutrient deprivation is under-recognized in modern medicine.

  • Nutrient deprivation arises in a number of scenarios other than due to famine, in illness, poverty, societal imbalance, self-starvation, etc.

  • This chapter lists resources relating to the regulatory and professional bodies, societies, journals, books, and websites that are relevant to an evidence-based approach to nutrient deprivation, starvation, and famine.

We would like to thank the following author for contributing to the development of this resource. Dr Valeria Galetti.


  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organization (WHO) (2017) The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. Building resilience for peace and food security. FAO, RomeGoogle Scholar
  2. Friedli N, Stanga Z, Sobotka L, Culkin A, Kondrup J, Laviano A, Mueller B, Schuetz P (2017) Revisiting the refeeding syndrome: results of a systematic review. Nutrition 35:151–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Kruizenga H, van Keeken S, Weijs P, Bastiaanse L, Beijer S, Huisman-de Waal G, Jager-Wittenaar H, Jonkers-Schuitema C, Klos M, Remijnse-Meester W, Witteman B, Thijs A (2016) Undernutrition screening survey in 564,063 patients: patients with a positive undernutrition screening score stay in hospital 1.4 d longer. Am J Clin Nutr 103:1026–1032CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Morris NF, Stewart S, Riley MD, Maguire GP (2018) The burden and nature of malnutrition among patients in regional hospital settings: A cross-sectional survey. Clin Nutr ESPEN 23:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Powell-Tuck J (1997) Penalties of hospital undernutrition. J R Soc Med 90:8–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajkumar Rajendram
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Vinood B. Patel
    • 2
  • Victor R. Preedy
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineKing Abdulaziz Medical City, Riyadh, Ministry of National Guard Health AffairsRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  2. 2.School of Life Sciences, Department of Biomedical ScienceUniversity of WestministerLondonUK
  3. 3.Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Research Division, Faculty of Life Science and MedicineKing’s College LondonLondonUK

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