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The first in a series of articles by Ecuadorian nutrition experts, in English and in Spanish

Editor’s note: I’ve had the honor of being appointed the Country Representative from Ecuador of the International Association of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (IAAND) of the U.S. I have been networking with nutritionists here in Cuenca, learning more about career education and credentialing requirements, as well as practice opportunities. I look forward to sharing more contributions from health and nutrition experts here in Ecuador and we’ll be publishing the content in English and Spanish. 

Norma Elizabeth Figueroa Rios is a Nutritionist and Dietitian with a Diploma in Nutritional Support and Clinical Nutrition. Norma works at the Municipal Hospital for Women in Cuenca and is passionate about the health of Ecuador, and especially about children. Norma says “I have the firm conviction that providing nutritional education to the entire population works as a strategy for prevention or control of disease.  Through nutritional education, we empower the population to adopt healthy eating habits and lifestyles and my goal is to continue working my goal is to reach the largest number of people and provide my city with Nutritional Culture.”

We need to improve
The food, nutrition and health situation in Ecuador is alarming; malnutrition, understood both as ‘hypo feeding’ and ‘overfeeding’, is present in all age groups. On the one hand, the hypo feeding commonly known as malnutrition due to an inadequate diet in energy, protein, vitamin A, iron, zinc, etc., generates adverse effects on growth, limiting cognitive development and thus becoming a health problem.

Overfeeding appears when there is excessive consumption of food and this situation triggers overweight or obesity. These modifiable factors increase the risk for the development of chronic noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes mellitus type 2, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancer, etc. – pathologies that maintain alarming percentages in Ecuador.

Although on the one hand in Ecuador over the last 26 years, chronic malnutrition (retardation in height) 1 has been reduced by 15%, a new alimentary tendency appears linked to overfeeding, generating an accelerated growth of overweight and obesity.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity increases according to the group of population under study:  in preschool children it is 8.5 percent, in the school population it is 29.9 (three times), in the adolescent population 26 percent (it declines a slight percentage), in the adult population reaches 62.8 percent, concluding that from the 24 provinces of Ecuador fully 18 maintain overweight and obesity problems.

Solution? Change health policies, open work fields to nutritionists, nutritional education should be a component of health policies and plans at the national level. Nutrition education works as a preventive component: education lowers the risk for disease. With increased knowledge of better food practices, this will allow the creation of healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Norma Figueroa brings her passion for good nutrition to children in Cuenca

Necesitamos mejorar
La situación alimentaria, nutricional y de salud en el Ecuador es alarmante, la malnutrición entendiéndose como una hipoalimentación y una sobrealimentación, está presente en todos los grupos etareos.  Por un lado, la hipoalimentación comúnmente conocida como desnutrición debido a una dieta inadecuada en energía, proteína, vitamina A, hierro, zinc, etc., genera efectos adversos en el crecimiento, limitando el desarrollo cognitivo y de esta forma convirtiéndose en un problema de salud.

La sobrealimentación en cambio aparece cuando existe un consumo excesivo de alimentos situación que desencadena sobrepeso u obesidad, considerándose a estos factores modificables para el desarrollo de enfermedades crónicas no transmisibles como diabetes mellitus tipo 2, resistencia a la insulina, dislipidemias, hipertensión arterial, enfermedades cardiovasculares, ciertos tipos de cáncer, etc., patologías que mantienen porcentajes alarmantes en Ecuador.

Si bien por un lado en Ecuador a través de los últimos 26 años se ha logrado reducir un 15% la desnutrición crónica (retardo en talla)1, aparece una nueva tendencia alimentaria ligada con la sobrealimentación generando un crecimiento acelerado de sobrepeso y obesidad.

La prevalencia de sobrepeso y obesidad aumenta según el grupo de población en estudio, en los preescolares es el 8.5%, en la población escolar es el 29.9 (triplica), en la población adolescente 26% (declina un ligero %), en la población adulta llega al 62.8%, llegando a concluirse que de las 24 provincias del ecuador 18 mantienen problemas de sobrepeso y obesidad. 1

¿Solución? Cambiar las políticas de salud, abrir campos de trabajo a los nutricionistas, la educación nutricional debe ser componente de políticas y planes de salud a nivel nacional, ya que esta funciona como componente preventivo, controla la patología, y permite modificar aquellos conocimientos aptitudes y practicas alimentarias inadecuadas promoviendo la creación de hábitos saludables que perduran toda la vida.


  1. Freire Wilma B., Ramírez María José, Belmont Philippe, Mendieta María José, Silva Katherine M., Romero Natalia, Sáenz Klever, Piñeiros Pamela, Gómez, Luis Fernando, Monge Rafael.  Encuesta Nacional de Salud y Nutrición ENSANUT-ECU 2011-2013. Ecuador, Primera Edición 2013.

Lcda. Norma Elizabeth Figueroa Rios
Nutricionista y Dietista Especialista en Soporte Nutricional y Nutrición Clínica
Certificada por International Society for the Advancement of Kinantropometry ISAK

16 thoughts on “The first in a series of articles by Ecuadorian nutrition experts, in English and in Spanish

    1. The Global Energy Balance Network is essentially the sugar industry’s equivalent of paying physicians to deny cigarettes cause cancer.

      The strategy is to buy up all the nutritionists so that they don’t publish studies that implicate their product in the global obesity crisis. In countries like Indonesia, they’ve all but cornered the market on nutrition research.

    2. The Global Energy Balance Network is essentially the sugar industry’s equivalent of paying physicians to deny cigarettes cause cancer.

      The strategy is to buy up all the nutritionists so that they don’t publish studies that implicate their product in the global obesity crisis. In countries like Malaysia, they’ve all but cornered the market on nutrition research.

      1. Article from 2015. This is exactly what I was speaking about above – some academics definitely influenced by industry dollars. But, somewhat irrelevant and immaterial to the important article published by our local Cuencana nutricionista above. Jason, was anticipating your contribution from a physician who recognizes the importance of nutrition education.

        1. Like most physicians, what I know about nutrition can fit in a thimble. The only reason I know anything is because I dated the National Director of Nutrition for 4 years. You can learn a lot proofreading someone else’s research and over dinner conversations.

    3. Your link to wikipedia doesn’t link to anything. Here is the link to learn more about the Academy.

      The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) is an organization that I’ve been a member of for more than 30 years, starting as a student. This parent organization of more than 100,000 practitioners does great work, all over the world. Just for an example, the Kids Eat Right Foundation provides mini-grants to dietitians to hold fun and educational nutrition classes for underprivileged kids throughout the WORLD (as the new Country Representative from Ecuador I’m now going to be able to apply for the grant). Here are the sponsorship requirements. There have been some bad actors in the past, not dietitians per se, but some academics who really burned the Academy’s reputation – however, the Academy’s leadership has tightened up the requirements. Sponsorship dollars help provide many programs and services, and I served for five years as the sponsorship director for the Weight Management Dietetic Practice Group – no sponsor had ANY input into any presentation, could Never use our logo on any of their marketing materials, could never claim endorsement, etc. The sponsor could talk about their products and services, and provide information about their products and services. Read more here.

  1. I have another solution suggestion. Prohibit junk food vendors from congregating outside the school exits. That’s the first place kids go when leaving class. It’s like letting drug pushers into the school zone.

      1. It’s so nice to hear from you, Donald. Give my regards to brother truthteller. I’m sorry that cousin stillwatching never got the chance to ride the tranvia. I know that he was looking forward to that for many years. Anyway, you three take care and try to stay out of trouble.

        1. I’ll be having lunch with truthteller tomorrow and I’ll send him your regards. You are wrong about Still Watching. He did get to ride the tranvia. He said it was great. He even rode backwards on the return trip from the Industrial Center.

    1. It is such a big problem. As Jason said, there’s a lot of pushback from the local vendors who “depend” on sales to the kids. It takes leadership to make and enforce policy that prevents this.

  2. As an aside — Congratulations Susan on your appointment! (for those that missed it, read the “editor’s note” at the top)

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