Malnutrition is one of the most serious public health problems and may be a leading cause of death, whether directly or indirectly. Malnutrition refers to the impairment of the health of an individual resulting from a deficiency, excess or imbalance in nutrients either consumed or absorbed by the body, or both. It simply means “bad nutrition”. Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years are most commonly affected, though older children and other adults may also be affected.
FORMS OF MALNUTRITION
Malnutrition can occur in two forms, which are;
- Undernutrition: This is otherwise known as nutritional deficiency. This occurs as a result of insufficient intake or lack of one or more nutrients in the body. It is more prominent in underdeveloped and developing countries.
- Overnutrition: This is the direct opposite of the former. It results from excess intake/consumption of one or more nutrients. It is more prominent in developed countries.
CAUSES OF MALNUTRITION
- Little/no knowledge of the type and quantity of foods required for good nutrition.
- Physiological/psychological conditions such as pregnancy, lactation, vegetarianism, etc.
- Eating disorders such as anorexia.
- Lack of economic means to purchase foods that are essential for good nutrition.
- Defects in enzymes and hormones which aid digestion and absorption of nutrients.
- Injury and loss of blood through accidents or surgical operations.
SIGNS OF MALNUTRITION
The physical and clinical signs of malnutrition (undernutrition, in particular) vary according to specific nutrient(s) lacking in the body.
Common signs of undernutrition include:
- Low body weight.
- Pale or scaly skin.
- Sore and inflamed tongue.
- Lack of energy, nervousness and depression.
- Poor concentration and coordination abilities.
- Fatigue and shortness of breath after little exertion.
- Frequent infections.
- Slow healing of wounds.