BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

Health and Malnutrition



What is Malnutrition? Malnutrition is a term that almost everyone is familiar with because it’s a topic often taught in high school, alongside “balanced diet”

Malnutrition is a preventable medical condition characterized by lack of proper nutrition due to not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or the body being unable to use the food that is eaten. Individuals are malnourished if their diet does not provide them with adequate calories and protein for maintenance and growth, or they cannot fully utilize the food they eat due to illness. Also, people can become malnourished from consuming food with insufficient, excessive or imbalanced nutrients. Several different nutrition disorders may develop, depending on which nutrients are lacking or consumed in excess. Other words that can be used to describe malnutrition include undernourishment, malnourishment, poor diet, inadequate diet and unhealthy diet, lack of food.

Children are the most visible victims of malnutrition- geographically; over 70% of malnourished children live in Asia, 26% in Africa and 4% in Latin America and the Caribbean. In many cases, these children were born by malnourished mothers, resulting in low birth weight- a risk factor for neonatal deaths and a major cause of learning disabilities, mental retardation and poor health. In these developing parts of the world, malnutrition is responsible for over 300,000 deaths per year in children younger than 5 years, contributing to over half of all deaths in children worldwide. Impacts of malnutrition include low mood, and reduced energy, muscle wasting, low sex drive and fertility issues, reduced mobility, decrease in white blood cells and corresponding immunity, increased risk of falls, infections and hospital admission, longer healing times for wounds, longer recover times from infections and reduced independence.

Malnutrition is caused by a lack of essential nutrients and results in poorer health. In developing countries malnutrition is widespread and the major cause is poverty and a corresponding lack of food to eat. In developed counties, it is caused by poor diet and eating habits, mental health problems, digestive disorders and alcoholism. Severely malnourished children typically experience slow behavioral development including mental retardation. Even after treatment, malnutrition may have long-term effects in children, causing impaired mental function and digestive problems permanently. On the other hand, adults usually make a full recovery when treated.

Clinical signs and symptoms of malnutrition include loss of weight and fat (adipose tissue), difficulties in breathing and higher risk of respiratory failure, depression, higher risk of hypothermia – abnormally low body temperature, total number of some types of white blood cells falls, higher susceptibility to feeling cold, Longer recovery from illnesses, reduced tissue mass, tiredness and fatigue, irritability, decreased social responsiveness, anxiety, and attention deficit. In more severe cases of malnutrition, the skin becomes thin, dry, inelastic, pale, and cold, cheeks look hollow and the eyes sunken as facial fat is lost, hair becomes dry, sparse, and falls out easily and finally, there may be heart, liver and respiratory failure.

Clearly malnutrition is a dangerous condition… but the good news is that it can be prevented. Since malnutrition is caused mainly by not consuming the right balance of nutrients- balanced diet- from major food groups including carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, protein, dairy and fats, prevention is majorly by ensuring that foods consumed contain these. However, when malnutrition is caused by other underlying conditions such as eating and digestive disorders, mental health issues and other factors, a healthcare professional should be contacted for a treatment plan. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom recommends that the average human should drink at least 1.2 liters of fluid per day, so drink enough water, eat a balanced diet and stay nourished!!!

What can you do to end malnutrition? Let’s start with this mindset… always remember that that the food you waste can save a child’s life!

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