Malnutrition: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment


Nutrition is defined as a combination of processes by which the living organismreceives andutilizes food materials necessary for the maintenance of its functions, growth and renewal of its components.An imbalance in the nutritional intake or utilization/processing of those nutrients resultsin malnutrition.It is defined as an impairment of health resulting from a deficiency, excess, imbalance or malabsorption of nutrients. UNICEF defines malnutrition is a broad term commonly used as an alternative to under-nutritionbut technically it is also refers to over-nutrition. People are malnourished if their diet does not provide adequate calories and protein for growth and maintenance (UNDER-NUTRITION)or if they consume too many calories(OVER-NUTRITION). Nutrition status reveals the degree to which physiologic nutrient needs are met for an individual. Assessment of nutrition status is the foundation of nutritional care, it is an important base for personalizing individual nutritional care in the context of the cause,prevention, or management of disease or promotion of health. An Adequate diet or Balanced diet is one which provides all the essential nutrients in sufficient quantities and proper proportions to meet the needs of the body.Hence, the diet should be balanced in Quantity and Quality catering to the requirements of Growth, Repair, maintenance of health and Regulation of body functions.

Symptoms of Malnutrition

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Malnutrition, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Nutritionist.


Family history, physical illness,mental health problems, Socio-economic factors,Demographicand Environmental factors,poor nutritional awareness,excess fat consumption or minimal intakeof dietary fiber causes malnutrition(either underweight or obese).

Risk Factors

FACTORS ACCOUNTING OVERNUTRITION · Metabolic diseases/disorders(Ex:Hypothyroidism,PCOD etc.) · Improper Exercise · Alcohol and Smoking · Anxiety and Depression · Stress · Familial history FACTORS ACCOUNTING FOR UNDERNUTRITION · Metabolic disease/disorders(Ex:Hyperthyroidism) · Sarcopenia · Cachexia · Poor socio-economic status · Excessive fasting/ Exercise · Anxiety/Depression · Food scarcity · Anorexia nervosa · Prortein-Energy malnutrition(PEM) · FAD diets


Malnutrition is a serious health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It occurs when the body does not receive the necessary nutrients it needs to function properly. Recognizing the symptoms of malnutrition is crucial in order to address this problem effectively. One of the key symptoms of malnutrition is weight loss. When the body lacks essential nutrients, it begins to break down muscle and fat stores, leading to noticeable weight loss. Additionally, individuals who are malnourished may experience fatigue and weakness as their bodies struggle to perform everyday tasks. Another common symptom of malnutrition is poor wound healing. Inadequate nutrition can impair the body's ability to repair damaged tissues, making wounds take longer to heal or even become infected. Furthermore, individuals suffering from malnutrition may exhibit changes in their hair, skin, and nails. Dry and brittle hair, pale or yellowish skin tone, and brittle nails are all signs that the body is not receiving sufficient nutrients. Other symptoms of malnutrition include frequent infections due to a weakened immune system, difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, and overall poor physical development in children. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial as early intervention can prevent further health complications associated with malnutrition. Seeking medical attention and implementing a well-balanced diet are important steps towards addressing this issue effectively and improving overall health and well-being.

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Nutritional assessment:Weight for age, Height for age, wieght for height,Basal metabolicindex(BMI),Skinfold thickness, Handgrip strength, abdominal girth, head circumferenceand wiast circumference etc. · Clinical assessment-To check Overall Nutritional status. · Other methods like vital statistics, Biophysical tests and ecological factors can helpindiagnosing the nutritional status


Psychologist-Plays a major role in understanding patient’s thoughts, Feelings andbehaviors and providing counselling to prevent self-destructive actions/malnutrition. · Nutritionist-Plays a major role in understanding dietary patterns, nutritional deficienciesand counselling in terms of nutritional requirements. · Physician- Anti-Depression/Anti-anxious medications if required

Preventive Measures

Prevention is key when it comes to combating malnutrition. By focusing on proactive measures, we can make significant strides in addressing this global health issue. One of the most effective ways to prevent malnutrition is through education and awareness. By providing individuals and communities with information about proper nutrition and the importance of a balanced diet, we can empower them to make informed choices about their food intake. Access to nutritious food is another critical aspect of prevention. Ensuring that communities have access to a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein sources can help combat malnutrition. This may involve implementing policies that support local agriculture, improving infrastructure for food distribution, and addressing socioeconomic factors that contribute to food insecurity. In addition, promoting breastfeeding and providing support for mothers can significantly impact the prevention of malnutrition in infants and young children. Breast milk provides essential nutrients for healthy growth and development, making it an invaluable tool in preventing undernutrition. Collaboration between governments, healthcare professionals, non-profit organizations, and communities is vital in implementing effective prevention strategies. By working together towards a common goal of reducing malnutrition rates globally, we can create lasting change and improve the overall well-being of individuals around the world. In conclusion, prevention plays a crucial role in addressing malnutrition. Through education, access to nutritious food, support for breastfeeding mothers, and collaborative efforts across sectors, we can make significant progress in preventing this widespread health issue.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
Consume a balanced diet with a variety of foods rich in nutrients like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid extreme dieting or severely restricting food intake without proper guidance.
Drink plenty of water regularly to stay hydrated and aid digestion. Don’t rely excessively on processed or fast foods high in sugars, unhealthy fats, and low in nutrients.
Seek professional advice from a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure you're meeting your dietary needs. Don't skip meals regularly or replace them with unhealthy snacks.
Take vitamin or mineral supplements as advised by a healthcare professional, especially if there are deficiencies. Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol, as it can interfere with nutrient absorption and lead to malnutrition.
Encourage breastfeeding for infants and young children to provide essential nutrients and build their immunity. Don’t solely depend on a single type of food; aim for a diverse range of nutrients from various food groups.
Ensure proper food storage, handling, and preparation to prevent contamination and loss of nutrients. Avoid overcooking food, as it can lead to nutrient loss. Aim for cooking methods that retain nutrients.
Monitor and maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Avoid self-diagnosing nutrient deficiencies and relying solely on self-prescribed supplements. Seek professional advice instead.

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Malnutrition, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Nutritionist.

Frequently Asked Questions
Malnutrition refers to a condition where there is an imbalance between the intake of nutrients and the body's needs, leading to negative health effects. It can result from deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person's intake of energy and/or nutrients.
Malnutrition can be caused by various factors, including insufficient food intake, poor diet quality, lack of access to nutritious food, digestive disorders, chronic illnesses, and socioeconomic factors such as poverty.
Malnutrition is often diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examinations, and laboratory tests. Measurements like body mass index (BMI), weight changes, and nutritional markers in blood tests are commonly used.
There are two main types of malnutrition: undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition includes conditions like stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies. Overnutrition involves excessive intake of calories, leading to conditions like obesity and diet-related diseases.
Vulnerable populations include children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with chronic illnesses. Those living in poverty, conflict zones, and areas with limited access to nutritious food are also at higher risk.
Malnutrition can lead to a range of health issues, including impaired physical and mental development, weakened immune system, increased susceptibility to infections, anemia, and in severe cases, organ failure and death.
Preventing malnutrition involves promoting a balanced and diverse diet, improving access to nutritious food, addressing socioeconomic factors, and providing education on proper nutrition and hygiene practices. Public health interventions and policies play a crucial role in prevention.
Yes, malnutrition can often be treated through nutritional rehabilitation, which may include dietary counseling, nutritional supplements, and, in severe cases, medical interventions. Addressing the underlying causes is crucial for long-term success.
Micronutrient deficiencies, such as lack of vitamins and minerals, contribute significantly to malnutrition. They can have profound effects on health, leading to conditions like iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin A deficiency, and iodine deficiency disorders.
Malnutrition is a significant global health challenge, affecting millions of people worldwide. It not only impacts individual health but also hinders economic development and contributes to the cycle of poverty, particularly in developing countries.
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