Malnutrition is the condition that develops when the body is deprived of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. Malnutrition occurs in people who are either undernourished or over nourished. Under nutrition occurs when not enough essential nutrients are consumed or when they are excreted more rapidly than they can be replaced. Over nutrition occurs in people who eat too much, eat the wrong things, don’t exercise enough or take too many vitamins or other dietary replacements
All over the world, people who are poor or who live in poverty-stricken areas are at the greatest risk of hunger and malnutrition. Malnutrition results from a poor diet or a lack of food. It happens when the intake of nutrients or energy is too high, too low, or poorly balanced.
- Low intake of food
- Mental health problems
- Social and mobility problems
- Digestive disorders and stomach conditions
- Lack of breastfeeding
Malnutrition harms both the body and the mind. Malnourished children may be short for their age, thin or bloated, listless and have weakened immune systems. Nutritional disorders can affect any system in the body and the senses of sight, taste and smell. They may also produce anxiety, changes in mood and other psychiatric symptoms.
The signs and symptoms of malnutrition depend on which nutritional deficiencies a person has, although they can include:
- fatigue (tiredness) and low energy
- poor immune function (which can harm the body’s ability to fight off infections)
- dry, scaly skin
- swollen and bleeding gums
- decaying teeth
- slowed reaction times and trouble paying attention
- poor growth
If a pregnant woman is malnourished, her child may weigh less at birth and have a lower chance of survival. Vitamin A deficiency from malnutrition is the chief cause of preventable blindness in the developing world, and kids with severe vitamin A deficiency have a greater chance of getting sick or dying from infections such as diarrhea or measles. Iodine deficiency can cause mental retardation and delayed development. Iron deficiency in infancy can delay development and make older kids less active and less able to concentrate. Teens that are malnourished often have trouble keeping up with others.
To prevent malnutrition, people need to consume a range of nutrients from a variety of food types. There should be a balanced intake of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, as well as plenty of fluids, and especially water.