describes a condition in which the body is depleted of, or unable to utilize vital nutrients (e.g., Proteins, fats) and micronutrients (e.g., vitamins, minerals, etc.).
- Nutrients provide us with energy, while mediating the manufacture of important biological chemicals (e.g., hormones, enzymes, immunoglobulins, etc.) that allow the mind and body to grow, develop and function normally. Deficiencies associated with Malnutrition affect the normal functions of genes, immune system (that fights infection and cancers), reproductive system and other physiological body functions. Two well known Malnutrition syndromes are Marasmus (a deficiency of protein and calories) and Kwashiorkor (a deficiency of protein only despite adequate nonprotein caloric intake). Micronutrient Malnutrition is being recognized as a new syndrome.
- The major cause of Malnutrition in the world is hunger which rubs the body of calories , protein and micronutrients (e.g. vitamin A , iron , Iodine etc.). The major reason for hunger is poverty.
- Inadequate food intake -- situations where food quantity and/or quality is compromised for a long period of time, as in war-ridden countries. In some instances, non-protein sources (sugars, fats) provide the calories but protein content of food is low.
- Inadequate digestion, absorption and metabolism of nutrients -- Protein loosing enteropathy, Whipple's disease, nephritic syndrome, eneteric fistulas, illnesses that cause Chronic Diarrhea.
- Conditions that require increase in quality and quantity of food such as pregnancy, infancy/child- hood development.
- Illnesses (cancer) infectious (AIDS, Tuberculosis ), Burns and other trauma, fever, hyperthyrodism, diabetes, major surgeries, all increase the body's need for Proteins and micronutrients.
- Elderly (and Individuals who have inadequate body reserves) because of poor dentition, changes in digestion, Dementia and other chronic illness are also at risk.
- Children and developing infants are the major casualties of Malnutrition in the world. Their physical growth/development and mental functioning is severely and some cases irreversibly affected.
- Psychiatric illnesses such as mental retardation, Anorexia Nervosa , depression, bulimia can also lead to Malnutrition .
- Symptoms vary with degree and type of Malnutrition .
- Weight loss, loss of fat, weakness, muscle atrophy or wasting, frequent infections, fatigue, cold intolerance, dizziness, delayed wound healing, skin ulcers, hair loss, skin and hair pigment changes
- In children delayed puberty, mental retatdation, difficulty with concentration and learning .
- An infant with Marasmus has growth retardation for age, weight loss, loss of muscle, loss of subcutaneous fat, eyes are sunken and there is a pot belly. The child is often alert and has good appetite.
- In Kwashiorker which develops
abruptly the child has excess water (edema) in the body tissues and appears swollen. The child has weight loss, muscle wasting, and is apathetic. The skin is flakey pale, painful and peeling. The hair is sparse, reddish tinged and loose. The liver enlarges.
- Measurements of weight, height, muscle (mid-arm circumference), triceps skin fold thickness, and dietary calorie count are some of the tests available for diagnosing malnutrion.
- Diagnostic tests may include a Chest X-Ray, stool fat analysis antigen skin testing. Blood tests which include a CBC (anemia and decreased white cell count) and serum chemistries may show decreased levels of albumin (a protein), transferrin, iron levels, Folic Acid and
other B vitamins, betalipoprotein, amino acids, and decreased Insulin levels. Blood may also be tested for AIDS and thyroid functrion.
- Is of the underlying cause.