Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of mortality, affecting millions of lives each year. Every country in the world is affected by the disease and it is a serious concern for public health, especially in developing countries where food is scarce. According to the World Health Organization, “Approximately 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight, 52 million children under 5 years of age are wasted, 17 million are severely wasted and 155 million are stunted, while 41 million are overweight or obese.” These staggering statistics show the alarming rate at which the world is facing severe health problems due to nutrition. What are the main characteristics, symptoms, and treatments for this global disease? Where is malnutrition most prevalent?
Malnutrition is a broad term which is commonly interpreted as an alternative of one being undernourished, but it is technically also associated with being over-nourished. According to the Journal of Nutritional Disorders and Therapy, “A malnourished person finds that their body has difficulty doing normal things such as growing and resisting disease. Physical work becomes problematic and even learning abilities can be diminished.” When one is malnourished an imbalance of energy, protein, and nutrients the body needs to function occurs. Malnutrition is a prevailing health problem and every country in the world is affected by it. It can become evident in laboratory values, indicating the severity of the disease. Malnutrition can be considered a primary or secondary diagnosis, which means malnutrition can lead to other diseases, or it can be the caused secondary to disease.
Symptoms of Malnutrition
There are different types of malnutrition, each with their own symptoms, and can be classified as undernutrition, overnutrition, and micronutrient malnutrition. The symptoms of malnutrition depend on the type of malnutrition; however, the most common symptoms include feeling tired all the time, dizziness, and weight loss. Other common symptoms of undernutrition include fatigue, unexplained weight loss, lack of energy, lack of strength, inability to concentrate, irritability, lack of appetite, loss of fat, loss of muscle mass, longer healing time for wounds, depression, anxiety, and dry skin. On the other end of the spectrum of malnutrition, overnutrition can occur causing weight gain that leads to overweight or obese. Micronutrients, the vitamins, and minerals that are vital to our health and development have devastating consequences when our diet is deficient in these nutrients. Symptoms of micronutrient malnutrition include blindness, which is a deficiency of vitamin A, anemia which is an iron deficiency, pellagra which is a severe niacin deficiency, diarrhea which is related with vitamin B3, and goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland) which is related with iodine deficiency. According to National Geographic, “Researchers estimate that over two million people suffer from micronutrient deficiency.” The symptoms of malnutrition are vast and require treatment depending on the severity.
Treatment of malnutrition
As the symptoms of malnutrition depend on the type of malnutrition, so does the treatment. The method of treatment can vary depending on the severity of malnutrition in an individual and other health factors such as latent medical conditions or complications. Healthcare providers work to develop a plan of care with specific aims to treat the individual and type of malnutrition. This plan typically includes a feeding program with a specifically planned diet and may include some nutritional supplements. Individuals who suffer from severe malnourishment or absorption difficulties may need additional nutritional support by way of artificial nutritional means through a feeding tube or intravenously. The individual’s health care provider will monitor his/her progress to ensure their nutritional needs are being met and will review and adjust their diet as needed.
Prevention of malnutrition is key and starts when individuals ensure they are eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet, including eating a range of nutrients from a variety of different foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Individuals should follow the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) and pay close attention to dietary references intakes (DRI) set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. These dietary guidelines can help individuals ensure they are getting a balanced intake of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, as well as fluids, especially water.
Prevalence of Malnutrition around the Globe
Malnutrition is a serious illness that affects many all over the world. Malnutrition is most often seen in developing regions where poverty is the main issue like Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Malnutrition mostly targets young children and women. In many societies, women are undervalued and are given lesser opportunities, such as poor diets. Since these females are malnourished, it results in them becoming malnourished mothers who give birth to infants who do not have the proper nutrients to stay alive. Malnutrition is mostly seen in developing countries, many females, and children are highly affected and can result in many other risk factors and diseases such as death, malaria, and acute respiratory infections.
Malnutrition comes with many other risk factors, especially in infants because they are still developing, meaning all nutrients are essential for children. According to UNICEF, “Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can also lead to stunted growth, which is associated with impaired cognitive ability and reduced school and work performance.” Nutrients are extremely crucial for infants and stunting is very common. Globally, in 2017, approximately 150.8 million infants under the age of 5 suffered from stunted growth. When children are affected by malnutrition, their physical appearance may not always be similar. In 2017, the rate of children under 5 who were obese increased to approximately 38.3 million. Many children who are malnourished are missing many of the key nutrients needed in their diet; however, their physical appearance may be different, but they still suffer from malnutrition.
Malnutrition affects millions around the globe each year and has severe consequences, including death. Organizations and health care providers work each year to help individuals treat this disease and regain their health. It is important globally and individually to try to treat and prevent this disease. Developed countries would greatly benefit from nutrition education, especially those were overnutrition is most prevalent. Programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other resources for underdeveloped could greatly help these food-scarce regions. The value of food programs for underdeveloped countries and the bountiful information that healthcare providers, nutritionists, and educators provide around the globe can help people make smarter decisions when it comes to their diet and health. Prevention is key and it is up to the world to work together to help those in food-scarce regions and to become informed individuals when it comes to our diets.
International micro-nutrient malnutrition prevention and control. (2018, March 6). Retrieved November 19, 2018, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: https://www.cdc.gov/immpact/micronutrients/index.html
Malnutrition. (2017). Journal of Nutritional Disorders ; Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.omicsonline.org/scholarly/malnutrition-journals-articles-ppts-list.php
Malnutrition. (2018, February 16). Retrieved November 19, 2018, from World Health Organization website: http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malnutrition
Malnutrition. (2018, May). Retrieved November 19, 2018, from UNICEF for every child website: https://data.unicef.org/topic/nutrition/malnutrition/
Müller, O., ; Krawinkel, M. (2005). Malnutrition and health in developing countries. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medical Canadienne, 173(3), 279-86.
Nordqvist, C. (2017, December 4). Malnutrition: What you need to know? Retrieved November 19, 2018, from Medical News Today website: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/179316.php
Summary of Responsibility
We worked diligently as a team to complete our research paper and PowerPoint on malnutrition. We all contributing to the creation of the PowerPoint and split the research paper into sections as follows:
Chandler Chatterton: Introduction, conclusion, treatment of malnutrition, and organization of the paper.
Christian Garcia: Symptoms of malnutrition (research paper) and symptoms of malnutrition (PowerPoint slide).
Valeria Ortiz: Prevalence of malnutrition around the globe, works cited, and organization of paper and PowerPoint.
Natalia Saucedo: Definition of malnutrition, general research, and organization of paper and PowerPoint.