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Malnutrition


Overview :

Undernutrition

Malnutrition occurs in people who are either undernourished or overnourished. Undernutrition is a consequence of consuming too few essential nutrients or using or excreting them more rapidly than they can be replaced.

Infants, young children, and teenagers need additional nutrients. So do women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Nutrient loss can be accelerated by diarrhea, excessive sweating, heavy bleeding (hemorrhage), or kidney failure. Nutrient intake can be restricted by age-related illnesses and conditions, food allergies, severe injury, serious illness, a lengthy hospitalization, or substance abuse.

The leading cause of death in children in developing countries is protein-energy malnutrition. This type of malnutrition is the result of inadequate intake of calories from proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Children who are already undernourished can suffer from protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) when rapid growth, infection, or disease increases the need for protein and essential minerals. These essential minerals are known as micronutrients or trace elements.

Two types of protein-energy malnutrition have been described'kwashiorkor and marasmus. Kwashiorkor occurs with fair or adequate calorie intake but inadequate protein intake, while marasmus occurs when the diet is inadequate in both calories and protein.

About 1% of children in the United States suffer from chronic malnutrition, in comparison to 50% of children in southeast Asia. About two-thirds of all the malnourished children in the world are in Asia, with another one-fourth in Africa.

Overnutrition

In the United States, nutritional deficiencies have generally been replaced by dietary imbalances or excesses associated with many of the leading causes of death and disability. Overnutrition results from eating too much, eating too many of the wrong things, not exercising enough, or taking too many vitamins or other dietary replacements.

Risk of overnutrition is also increased by being more than 20% overweight, consuming a diet high in fat and salt, and taking high doses of:

  • Nicotinic acid (niacin) to lower elevated cholesterol levels
  • Vitamin B6 to relieve premenstrual syndrome
  • Vitamin A to clear up skin problems
  • Iron or other trace minerals not prescribed by a doctor. 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. Malnutrition begins with changes in nutrient levels in blood and tissues. Alterations in enzyme levels, tissue abnormalities, and organ malfunction may be followed by illness and death.




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