What is Malnutrition: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

We always talk about conditions related to overeating like obesity but we never talk or discuss undereating or undernutrition. So today in this blog I will discuss the condition due to undernutrition which is MALNUTRITION.


Malnutrition is basically a serious condition that occurs when the diet which you are taking does not contain the right amount of essential nutrients.


Malnutrition also means “poor nutrition” as well as can refer to:

  • Undernutrition – when you are not taking enough nutrients.
  • Overnutrition – when you are taking more nutrients than your body need.


In other words, we can say that the condition results due to a lack of food or from poor diet. It happens when the intake of essential nutrients or energy in the body is too low, too high, or poorly balanced.


Undernutrition in the body can also lead to delayed growth, while a diet that provides too many nutrients, but not necessarily balanced, ultimately leads to obesity.


In some cases, the undernutrition may arise from a bad health condition like an eating disorder or a chronic illness.


Recently, according to the World Health Organization, the malnutrition condition is the serious single threat to global public health.


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What is Malnutrition?

It is a term used to refer to the condition in which the body does not get enough nutrients for its proper function. The condition may range from mild to severe and life-threatening possibilities.


The condition may be a result of starvation, in which a person has a low intake of calories, or it may be linked to a deficiency of one particular nutrient like vitamin C deficiency.


The condition can also occur because a person cannot properly absorb or digest nutrients from the diet he/she is consuming.


in today’s life, the malnutrition has remained a significant global problem, especially in some developing countries like India.




What are the Symptoms of Malnutrition?

There are several symptoms of the conditions which can be shown by a person including;

  • Lack of appetite
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Always feeling cold
  • Loss of fat, body tissue, and muscle mass
  • Greater risk of getting sick
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Longer healing time for wounds
  • Greater risk of complications after surgery
  • Depression
  • Breathing problem
  • Reduced sex drive and problems with fertility
  • The skin may become dry, inelastic, thin, pale, and cold
  • Hair becomes dry and sparse, falling out easily
  • Eventually, there may be a heart failure and respiratory failure, or the person may become unresponsive.
  • Due to the condition, children may show a lack of growth with tired feeling all the time and irritable.
  • Even with treatment, a person can show long-term effects on a mental function as well as digestive problems may persist.




What are the Causes of Malnutrition?

There are several causes of malnutrition including;

  • Low intake of food
  • Mental health problems
  • Social and mobility problems
  • Digestive disorders and stomach conditions
  • Alcoholism
  • Lack of breastfeeding



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What is the Process of Malnutrition Diagnosis?

There is 5 step easy process for diagnosing the condition including;


Step 1: Measure weight and height, calculate body mass index (BMI) and provide a score.


Step 2: Note the actual percentage of unplanned weight loss and provide a score to your healthcare provider.


Step 3: Identify any physical or mental health condition and score.


Step 4: Add all the scores from above steps to obtain an overall risk score.


Step 5: Last but not the least, use local guidelines to develop a care plan for yourself.




What are the Treatments for Malnutrition?

Specifically, the treatment of the condition only depending on what’s caused a person to become malnourished.


In the treatment process, dietary changes are the main method for malnutrition. If a person is undernourished, he/she may need to increase the nutritional content of the food, with or without taking other types of nutritional supplements.


If the person is unable to take enough diet to meet his/her nutritional needs than the person may need:

  • A feeding tube to provide nutrients directly into the digestive system.
  • A drip to provide fluids and nutrients directly into a vein.





The condition of malnutrition is caused due to having an inadequate diet or having a problem absorbing nutrients from food. The condition can be caused due to many reasons such as having reduced mobility and a long-term health condition. The condition can also be treated easily.


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