The World Health Organization defines malnutrition as the cellular imbalance between supply of nutrients and energy and the body's demand for them to ensure growth, maintenance, and specific functions. Women and young children are the most adversely affected groups; one quarter to one half of women of child-bearing age in Africa and south Asia are underweight, which contributes to the number of low birth weight infants born annually. Malnutrition does not only mean hunger and under-nourishment, over-eating or excess nourishment is also malnutrition. It is a potentially life-threatening condition. So in order to stay healthy you need to eat healthy.
Malnutrition is globally the most important risk factor for illness and death, contributing to more than half of deaths in children worldwide.
In the elderly, malnutrition is usually due to digestion and absorption problems, rather than lack of food. Loss of appetite, sometimes connected to illness, also causes them to eat less. When unsupervised and sometimes forced to eat, many can ignore meal times or simply forget to eat.
Alcoholism also can lead to malnutrition in adults of all ages because it affects appetite and absorption of nutrients.
Causes of malnutrition
Natural Disasters and Wars
Inadequate Care of Women and Children
Unsafe Water and Poor Sanitation
Over-Consumption of Unhealthy Foods
Environmental and social factors
Symptoms of malnutrition
Malnutrition Symptoms in Children
- Dry and flaking skin with scales, swollen and painful joints, weakness in the muscle and trembling, Dizziness and slowed reflexes, fatigue and loss of energy.
- Osteoporosis, where the bones can break easily.
- Loss of appetite and weight, growth retardation, low organ function and distended stomach and diarrhea.
- Bleeding gums and decayed teeth.
- Weak immune system and low memory power.
- Deficiencies of Vitamin A that can cause loss of vision.
- Kwashiorkor and Marasmus are two conditions which occur due to loss of protein energy metabolism and have the same symptoms as above. They act as a primary symptom for malnutrition.
Malnutrition Symptoms in Adults
- Edema ,dry scaly skin, brittle hair pigment, brittle nails, loss of appetite and weight loss Weakened muscles, pain in joints, Chronic diarrhea
- Anemia, goiter and Weakened immune system.
- Increased protein energy malnutrition.
- Bad moods and constant irritability
- Exhaustion and fatigue
Malnutrition Symptoms in Elderly People
- Confusion, disorientation, irritability and uncontrolled anger, dizziness that can lead to fits.
- Tachycardia, a condition in which the heartbeat fastens to a rapid rate, can also lead to heart attacks.
- Low output of urine and hence further kidney problems.
- Dry and scaly skin and constipation and bowel blockage.
Prevention and treatment
Adequate food intake
Information Source Links
- Ministry of Medical Services, GOK. Kenya National Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics Reference Manual. Nairobi, Kenya: Ministry of Medical Services Republic of Kenya; (2010).
- Sharon R, Kathryn P, Ellie W.Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition.8th edition.USA: Yolanda cossio; (2008).
- Vander A and others: Human physiology: The mechanisms of body functions. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.(2000).