Hunger, poor nutrition and obesity not only present a health burden in developing countries but carry a hidden economic penalty that costs businesses up to $850 billion a year, according to a new report published Wednesday. Researchers said malnutrition reduces the resilience of populations to risks such as infectious disease outbreaks and extreme climate events, as well as causing a reduction in productivity and earnings. With the coronavirus pandemic expected to drive millions more into hunger and poverty, they called for governments and businesses alike to focus on nutrition as part of recovery efforts. “While the costs of undernutrition and overweight/obesity to societies and governments are well explored, the costs and risks to companies created by malnutrition in the workforce and the wider community have remained under the radar,” said lead researchers Laura Wellesley, a senior research fellow at Chatham House. “We show that the costs and risks are significant and that it is in the interests of businesses to take action.” The report, which was compiled with the Vivid Economics group, defined malnutrition as both undernutrition and overnutrition — encompassing conditions from stunting and anaemia to being overweight and obese. In developing nations where the prevalence of malnutrition is high, researchers estimated that the direct costs of productivity loss would total between $130 billion and $850 billion a year. That is equivalent to between 0.4 per cent and 2.9 percent of the combined gross domestic product of those countries. The report extrapolated the results from modelling 19 lower- and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa, Central America and Europe. According to the 2020 Global Nutrition Report, around one in nine people globally are hungry or undernourished, while one in three people are overweight or obese. Almost a quarter of children under five are stunted.