Malnutrition: What is it?

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January 9, 2019

About Malnutrition

Malnutrition is an issue which is caused by the deficiency, imbalance or excessive intake of energy or nutrients of any person. This problem can be a result of a poor diet or lack of proper nutrients which are required for the normal working of the body of any person. When the energy consumption of a person becomes imbalanced i.e. too low or too high, malnutrition can be caused.


According to a report of World Health Organization (WHO), Malnutrition is the single but a tough threat to the public health globally. It is because approximately 45% deaths of children under the age of 5 years are being caused by Malnutrition all around the world.

What do you mean by Malnutrition?

Malnutrition refers to the imbalance of the dietary nutrients. Malnutrition is not being caused by the deficiency of the food a person is intaking in his regular routine only. It can be caused by the improper or wrong type of food consumption too. But in most of the cases all around the world Malnutrition is being caused by the lack of proper nutrients just because people are not intaking enough food.


Poor diet can be a major cause of the lack of proper minerals, vitamins, or other necessary substances which are required for normal working and proper growth of the body of an individual.


Deficiency of specific essential substances can lead you to different health issues such as little consumption of protein. This may lead a person to the problem of kwashiorkor, the major symptom of kwashiorkor is a distended abdomen. Similarly, the deficiency of vitamin C can be a cause of scurvy. Scurvy is a rare problem in industrialized areas but it can affect the health of older ones there too. The individuals who are taking an excessive amount of alcohol in their routine or the ones who are not using fresh fruits or vegetable properly in their routine can be a victim of scurvy. Similarly, any children or faint who is facing a limited diet due to any reason can become a victim of scurvy too.


According to a report of World Health Organization (WHO) more than 462 million people around the world are suffering from Malnutrition and stunted development has affected more than 159 million children all around the world. If a child is suffering from the problem of Malnutrition then there are greater chances of that person to suffer from long-term health issues and may have to face some challenges in their educational activities or may suffer from the limited work opportunities in his future. A child who is having Malnutrition may have babies of smaller size after being grown up.


Due to the issue of Malnutrition, they may face a slow recovery process of wounds or any other illness and this can make the diseases complicate for them such as malaria, measles, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Malnutrition can lead the body of any individual in a more susceptible to any disease.

Categories of Malnutrition

If you want to know about the groups of Malnutrition, then keep in mind that Malnutrition covers two major groups, one is undernutrition and the second is overnutrition.


Undernutrition covers wasting (a state of low weight with respect to the specific height), stunting (a state of smaller height with respect to a specific age), insufficiencies or deficiencies of micronutrients (deficiency of important minerals and vitamins) or underweight (low weight with respect to a specific age). In different parts of the world the situation of undernutrition occurs due to the deficiency of proper food but in some other situations, undernutrition can be caused by a certain health disorder, for example, any eating disorder or any chronic problem that may stop a person to absorb the nutrients properly.


Body, Health, Measuring tape

The second group which comes under the term of Malnutrition is overweight. Overweight covers obesity and other non communicable diseases related to the diet for example stroke, cancer, diabetes or heart diseases.

Major symptoms of Malnutrition

Major symptoms or signs of Malnutrition may include the followings:

  • Lack of appetite can be the symptom of Malnutrition
  • Longer healing time required for wounds.
  • Loss of body tissues or fat can be one of the important symptoms of Malnutrition
  • Irritability or tiredness can be the symptom of Malnutrition
  • If a person is getting sick easily and it is taking a long time for him to recover then he is having the problem of Malnutrition.
  • Increase in the risks of surgery complications
  • Depression
  • Concentration problem can be the symptom of Malnutrition
  • If you are feeling cold at every time then you may be suffering from Malnutrition
  • In some other severe situations, the following issues can also be considered as the symptoms or signs of Malnutrition:
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Thin, inelastic, dry, pale, and cold skin
  • The hollow appearance of the cheeks, the eyes may appear to be sunken as fat has been disappeared from the face of anyone
  • Dry or sparse hair, or hair loss

The person who is suffering from Malnutrition may have heart failure or respiratory failure and in severe conditions, the patient may become unresponsive. Within the duration of 8 to 12 weeks, total starvation can be fatal.


On the hand, children who are suffering from Malnutrition may have growth issues or they may become tired within a little duration or become irritable. The behavioral or intellectual development process of such children will become slower. And there is a great possibility that they may find difficulties in their learning processes. Even if you are not going to treat Malnutrition in time, the children may face long-term health issues or the mental health of the children can also be affected and the child may suffer from some digestive issues too. In severe cases, these problems can be life-long. Adults who are suffering from Malnutrition may have higher capabilities to get rid of this problem with having proper treatment.

Most common causes of Malnutrition

Malnutrition can be a result of different environmental or behavioral situations. If you are looking to know about the major causes or reasons of the Malnutrition then following statements can enough for you to know:

  • The lower amount of food intake
  • Different mental health issues
  • Some social or mobility issues
  • Disturbed stomach conditions or digestive problems
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Absence of breastfeeding

The lower amount of food intake

If a person is not going to consume enough amount of healthy food or required nutrients then he may suffer from Malnutrition. The lower amount of food intake can also be caused by an illness such as dysphagia. With dysphagia, it becomes difficult to swallow the food. Badly fitting dentures can contribute to this situation.

Different mental health issues

If a person is suffering from any mental health issue such as depression, anxiety, dementia, anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, and bulimia, then there are great chances of being a patient of Malnutrition of that person.

Some social or mobility issues

Some people do not want to go out of their houses to get the food for themselves or they find it a difficult process to prepare the meal for them to eat. Those who are living away from their houses or alone at their place may have a higher risk of being a victim of Malnutrition. It is because they may have irregularity or imbalance food to eat on a regular basis. Similarly, some people in the world do not have enough money to buy proper food for them and other may have a deficiency of cooking skills. But all of these can be a cause of undernutrition.

Disturbed stomach conditions or digestive problems

If a person is taking healthy food which has a proper amount of required substances in it but your digestive system is not absorbing the required nutrients effectively and efficiently then there are chances of suffering from Malnutrition. People who are suffering from Crohn’s disease or having ulcerative colitis may have to remove the affected part of their small intestine to enable the process of absorption of required substances properly and efficiently.


Celiac disease is basically a genetic disorder which can be found in different people. This can become a cause of damaged lining of any person’s intestines and can lead to poor food absorption in mostly cases.


Obstinate diarrhea and vomiting can be the major cause of loss of nutrients from the body.   

Excessive use of alcohol

Excessive use of alcohol can lead to the damage of pancreas due to which digestion of food, absorption of certain vitamins and production of hormones that have the ability to regulate the process of the metabolism becomes harder. 

As Alcohol contains a higher number of calories due to which a person may not feel hungry for a long period of time and may not be going to eat enough amount of energy required for the body with essential nutrients which can be a cause of Malnutrition.

Absence of breastfeeding

Women who are not focusing on breastfeeding for their children, be aware of the fact that this can lead their child to malnutrition. So, breastfeed your child to give them proper nutrients.

Treatment of malnutrition

The following can be recommendations for the treatment of malnutrition


At low risk


Recommendations for the malnutrition at low risk may include the ongoing screening at home or at the hospital.


At medium risk

For the person who is suffering from malnutrition at medium risk undergo observation will be recommended. Dietary consumption of the person will be documented at least for 3 days and the person may receive ongoing screening.


At high risk


The person who is suffering from malnutrition at higher risk may have to consult with a nutritionist and have to follow the diet recommendations of the nutritionist or any other specialist he is going to get treatment from. The patient will receive ongoing care for a longer period of time.


The recommended type of the treatment that a person is going to get will depend on the level of his problem or presence of any complication or underlying condition. The patient will get a targeted healthcare plan from his healthcare consultant. That may consist of a diet plan with a properly planned diet and may get some recommendations for nutritional supplements.

People who are suffering from the severe problem of malnutrition may have to get artificial nutritional support. Patients of malnutrition are closely monitored to observe the level of progress and the treatment is going to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that the nutritional needs of the patient are being met properly.   

How to prevent malnutrition?

It is not a tough thing to prevent malnutrition. It is because to prevent malnutrition an individual has to consume a range of proper nutrients from different types of foods. There should be a proper balance in the consumption of fats, carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins, and a plenty of fluids, specifically water. The intake of proper substances will help a person to lower the risk of malnutrition.


For those who have the ability to eat normally and have the better digestive systems which can absorb the essential nutrients from the food, for them it is a better option to have a proper diet plan with proper nutrient content to prevent malnutrition. It is always an important thing to notice that the diet plan must be balanced and will be able to allow the person to gain weight with the providence of essential minerals, and vitamins. For those who are suffering from any health issue and are unable to eat normally, they must have to consume injectable nutrients for the proper working and growth of their body.


Managing your nutrition or health can become a difficult task with growing age. If you want to improve your health or want to take care of your loved one then it will be better to talk to them about their health concerns and consult any specialist in case of a need.  

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