Malnutrition: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diseases

Malnutrition is a state of nutrition in which a deficiency or excess of energy, protein, and other nutrients causes adverse effects on our body shape, size and composition, and functions. The term malnutrition includes obesity and under-nutrition. The term malnutrition is used here to mean under-nutrition.

Malnutrition means “poor nutrition”. It refers to:

Under-nutrition – when you do not get enough nutrients.
Over-nutrition – when you get more nutrients than you need.

Malnutrition causes different types of diseases. The different disease has a specific cause related to one or more nutrients, for example, protein, iodine, vitamin A, iron, etc. Malnutrition is caused mainly by protein-energy malnutrition, which is an imbalance between the supply of protein and energy for the body.

According to the World Health Organization, by 2015 prevalence of malnutrition worldwide will be 17.6% and a large number of malnourished populations will be from developing countries in southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 29% of them will have stunted growth due to poor nutrition.

According to Data Provided By UNICEF

The most common symptoms of malnutrition are weight loss like, those who lose up to 10% of their body weight in three months without dieting. There may be other symptoms like fatigue, lack of energy, lack of strength, breathlessness, anemia, changes of skin hair and nails, etc.

Children with malnutrition cause irritability, inability to concentrate, failure to grow to their expected height, stunted growth, etc. There are many types of diseases caused by malnutrition from an early age. Some of the diseases can be seen in early childhood and some of them cannot be recognized so easily. Those diseases which are hard to recognize early are very dangerous and cannot be cured because these are physical, mental, and behavioral changes.

Symptoms of Malnutrition

Malnutrition is very difficult to recognize, particularly in patients who are overweight or obese. Malnutrition can occur very slowly, which can make it very difficult to recognize in the early stages. Some of the symptoms and signs are:

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss.
  • Tiredness and loss of energy.
  • Reduced ability to perform normal tasks.
  • Changes in mood – malnutrition can cause lethargy and depression.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Poor growth in children.
  • Wrinkles are seen in the face, hip, and buttock
  • Normally it appears after diarrhoea and measles.

Stages Of Malnutrition

Various stages of malnutrition are given below:

  1. Normal Condition: Such types of malnutrition do not have specific symptoms. It is normally the condition of underweight. It can be identified by regular weight checks.
  2. Medium condition: Kwashiorkor is a medium type of malnutrition. It appears to babies of 1 to 4 years of age.
  3. Severe condition: Savory cases are classified by marasmus and kwashiorkor, on the basis of symptoms.

Types Of Malnutrition

  • Undernutrition: the condition in which intake of the food supply is less or insufficient.
  • Malnutrition: the supplied food lacks the necessary nutrients.
  • Specific deficiency: Minerals and vitamins are not supplied in a proper amount all the other nutrients are availed.
  • Overnutrition: the condition caused by the excessive supply of food more than the requirement.

Different Types Of Diseases Caused By Malnutrition

maramus in children


Marasmus is a severe form of malnutrition that consists of the chronic wasting of fats, muscles, and other tissues in the body.

Kwashiorkor in Children


Kwashiorkor is the most common nutritional disorder in developing countries. It is a form of malnutrition caused by not getting enough protein in the diet.

Anaemia hands


Anemia is a malnutrition condition that develops when our blood does not contain enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin.

Night Blindness Eyes

Night Blindness

Night Blindness is a low nutrition condition that causes impaired dark adaptation. It is the experience of reduced night vision.



Scurvy is a condition distinguished by general weakness, anaemia, gingivitis (gum disease), and skin haemorrhages created by a long term deficiency of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the diet.



Rickets is a disorder, which is caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate. It leads to weakness in the bone in children.

Consequences Of Malnutrition?

  1. Psychosocial effects
  2. Immunity and wound healing
  3. Gastrointestinal function
  4. Cardio-respiratory function
  5. Muscle function

Diagnosing Of Malnutrition

Malnutrition becomes worse if the diagnosis did not start at an early age. Detection of malnutrition at an early age makes the treatment of Malnutrition easy. Medical Personal can advise necessary nutrients early as a treatment program for the patient.

Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool

The Malnutrition Advisory Group ( MAG ) of the British Association For Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) has designed Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool (MUST) to identify malnutrition in an effective way for adults. This suited with adults who are

  • malnourished
  • at risk form malnutrition
  • obese

This tool is a five-step tool that is used by a medical professional to diagnose malnutrition in adults. It consists of guidelines for an effective treatment plan suitable for patients. This tool is effective only in adults who are at risk of malnourished. It cannot detect deficiencies or excesses of vitamins and minerals.

Treatment of Malnutrition

Treatment of malnutrition is different in different stages. Stages of malnutrition are already discussed above as normal, medium, and severe. All these stages have different processes of treatment because of the illness or condition of the patient. The National Institute For Health and Clinical Excellence ( NICE ) has introduced guidelines to treat malnutrition.

According to NICE medical advisors must give the patient all information of the treatment, discuss the process of diagnosis, treatment options including some psychological, physical, and social issues, and give the contact details of international organizations, charities, support groups. It makes patients motivated to cure malnutrition.

Process of treatment

Once the malnutrition is confirmed then the patient has to choose the care plan. In this care plan patient firstly given a sufficient diet. If you can prepare your food yourself then Health care professionals will ensure that you are taking enough calories from food.

If you have problems with mobility then they will provide you assistance with food shopping and cooking. Only food cannot provide you essential nutrition so you also have to take additional nutritional diets.

If the patient has problems with feeding that means the patient cannot take food themself then they care for it with artificial Nutritional Support. Patients will feed directly with a tube using an enteral feeding process and liquid from a flood using parenteral feeding.

Monitoring Patient Progress is another step to know how nutrients are affecting the patients. If the nutrition level becomes low then they further provide the correct amount of calories and the right nutrition.

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