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- Main article: Nutritional deficiencies
Malnutrition is a general term for the medical condition caused by an improper or insufficient diet. It most often refers to undernutrition resulting from inadequate consumption, poor absorption, or excessive loss of nutrients, but the term can also encompass overnutrition, resulting from overeating or excessive intake of specific nutrients. An individual will experience malnutrition if the appropriate amount, kind or quality of nutrients comprising a healthy diet are not consumed for an extended period of time. An extended period of malnutrition can result in starvation.
Malnutrition as the lack of sufficient nutrients to maintain healthy bodily functions is typically associated with extreme poverty in economically developing countries. It is a common cause of reduced intelligence in parts of the world affected by famine such as Ethiopia.  Malnutrition as the result of inappropriate dieting, overeating or the absence of a "balanced diet" is often observed in economically developed countries (eg. as indicated by increasing levels of obesity).
Most commonly, malnourished people either do not have enough calories in their diet, or are eating a diet that lacks protein, vitamins, or trace minerals. Medical problems arising from malnutrition are commonly referred to as deficiency diseases. Scurvy is a well-known and now rare form of malnutrition, in which the victim lacks vitamin C.
Common forms of malnutrition include protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and micronutrient malnutrition. PEM refers to inadequate availability or absorption of energy and proteins in the body. Micronutrient malnutrition refers to inadequate availability of some essential nutrients such as vitamins and trace elements that are required by the body in small quantities. Micronutrient deficiencies lead to a variety of diseases and impair normal functioning of the body. Deficiency in micronutrients such as Vitamin A reduces the capacity of the body to resist diseases. Deficiency in iron, iodine and vitamin A is widely prevalent and represent a major public health challenge. An array of afflictions ranging from stunted growth, reduced intelligence and various cognitive abilities, reduced sociability, reduced leadership and assertiveness, reduced activity and energy, reduced muscle growth and strength, and poorer health overall are directly implicated to nutrient deficiencies. Also, another, although rare, effect of malnutrition is black spots appearing on the skin.
Epidemiology[edit | edit source]
Food intake and psychological conditions[edit | edit source]
Reduced food intake to the point of malnutrition is a feature of a number of psychological conditions. Most obviously anorexia nervosa and bulimia and alcoholism. But it is also a substantial problem amongst older adults.
Psychological effects of malnutrition[edit | edit source]
Causes of Malnutrition[edit | edit source]
- Digestive disease
- Over-consumption of fat and sugar
- Postmature birth
- Untreated diabetes mellitus
Statistics[edit | edit source]
|Country||Number of Undernourished (million)|
|Democratic Republic of Congo||37.0|
Note: This table measures "undernourishment", as defined by FAO, and represents the number of people consuming (on average for years 2001 to 2003) less than the minimum amount of food energy (measured in kilocalories per capita per day) necessary for the average person to stay in good health while performing light physical activity. It is a conservative indicator that does not takes into account the extra needs of people performing extrenous physical activity, nor seasonal variations in food consumption or other sources of variability such as inter-individual differences in energy requirements.
Malnutrition and undernourishment are cumulative or average situations, and not the work of a single day's food intake (or lack thereof). This table does not represent the number of people who "went to bed hungry today."
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that in 2003, only 1 out of 200 U.S. households with children became so severely food insecure that any of the children went hungry even once during the year. A substantially larger proportion of these same households (3.8 percent) had adult members who were hungry at least one day during the year because of their households' inability to afford enough food.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Anorexia nervosa
- Copenhagen Consensus
- Essential nutrient
- Famine response
- Illnesses related to poor nutrition
- United Nations World Food Programme
References[edit | edit source]
- "Malnutrition Is Cheating Its Survivors, and Africa’s Future" article in the New York Times by Michael Wines, December 28, 2006
[edit | edit source]
- The Borgen Project, Poverty reduction throught political accountability.
- Reports on World Nutrition Situation The annual reports prepared by UN Standing Committee on Nutrition contain detailed information on common challenges, extent of malnutrition, efforts being taken to address them, and a wealth of other useful information.
- The Merck Manual - Malnutrition
- Physical Growth & Nutritional status
- World Hunger Map (from United Nations World Food Programme)
- FAO country statistics
- HungryKids Info on malnutirition from HungryKids
- A wiki to fight hunger and malnutrition
Nutritional pathology (E40-68, 260-269)
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