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Malnutrition refers to getting too little or too much of certain nutrients. It can lead to serious health issues, including stunted growth, eye problems, diabetes and heart disease. Malnutrition affects billions of people worldwide. Some populations have a high risk of developing certain types of malnutrition depending on their environment, lifestyle and resources.

This post discusses the types, symptoms and causes of malnutrition and provides information about prevention and solution.

What Is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a condition that results from nutrient deficiency or overconsumption.

Types of malnutrition include- Undernutrition: This type of malnutrition results from not getting enough protein, calories or micronutrients. It leads to low weight-for-height (wasting),height-for-age (stunting) and weight-for-age (underweight).

Overnutrition: Overconsumption of certain nutrients, such as protein, calories or fat, can also lead to malnutrition. This usually results in overweight or obesity.People who are undernourished often have deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine. However, micronutrient deficiencies can also occur with overnutrition. It’s possible to be overweight or obese from excessive calorie consumption but not get enough vitamins and minerals at the same time. That’s because foods that contribute to overnutrition, such as fried and sugary foods, tend to be high in calories and fat but low in other nutrients.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of malnutrition depend on the type. Being able to recognize the effects of malnutrition can help people and healthcare providers identify and treat issues related to under- or overnutrition.


Undernutrition typically results from not getting enough nutrients in your diet. In fact, it’s estimated that stunting, wasting and zinc and vitamin A deficiencies contributed to up to 45% of all child deaths in 2011. Undernutrition can also result in micronutrient deficiencies. Some of the most common deficiencies and their symptoms include: Vitamin A: Dry eyes, night blindness, increased risk of infection, Zinc: Loss of appetite, stunted growth, delayed healing of wounds, hair loss, diarrhea, Iron: Impaired brain function, issues with regulating body temperature, stomach problems, Iodine: Enlarged thyroid glands (goiters), decreased production of thyroid hormone, growth and development issues. Since undernutrition leads to serious physical issues and health problems, it can increases risk of death.The symptoms of undernutrition are weight loss, Loss of fat and muscle mass, Hollow cheeks and sunken eyes, A swollen stomach, Dry hair and skin, Delayed wound healing, Fatigue, Difficulty concentrating, Irritability, Depression and anxiety.


The main signs of overnutrition are overweight and obesity, but it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Research shows that people who are overweight or obese are more likely to have inadequate intakes and low blood levels of certain vitamins and minerals compared to those who are at a normal weight. One study in 285 adolescents found that blood levels of vitamins A and E in obese people were 2–10% lower than those of normal-weight participants. This is likely because overweight and obesity can result from an overconsumption of fast and processed foods that are high in calories and fat but low in other nutrients. A study in over 17,000 adults and children found that those who ate fast food had significantly lower intakes of vitamins A and C and higher calorie, fat and sodium consumption than those who abstained from this type of food.

Long-Term Effects

Malnutrition can lead to the development of diseases and chronic health conditions. Long-term effects of undernutrition include a higher risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Researchers suspect that childhood undernutrition causes changes in metabolism that may lead to a higher likelihood of developing chronic diseases later in life.

Overnutrition can also contribute to the development of certain health issues. Specifically, overweight or obese children have a higher chance of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. A study in over 369,000 children found that those who were obese were more than four times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to their peers who had a normal BMI. Since the long-term effects of malnutrition can increase your risk of certain diseases, preventing and treating malnutrition may help reduce the prevalence of chronic health conditions.

The WHO estimates that over 460 million adults and 150 million children are undernourished, while more than two billion adults and children are overweight or obese.

Populations at Risk

Malnutrition affects people in all parts of the world, but some populations are at a higher risk. Populations that are prone to malnutrition include: People living in developing countries or areas with limited access to food: Undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are especially common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Individuals with increased nutrient needs, especially children and pregnant or breastfeeding women: In some developing countries, 24–31% of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are malnourished. People that live in poverty or have low incomes: Low socioeconomic status is associated with malnutrition. Older adults, particularly those who live alone or have disabilities: Research shows that up to 22% of older adults are malnourished and over 45% are at risk of malnutrition. People with issues that affect nutrient absorption: People with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may be up to four times more likely to have malnutrition than those without these conditions.

Nutritional Solution for care

Preventing and eradicating malnutrition involves addressing the underlying causes. We at Be Young, support Government agencies to play a role in preventing malnutrition.
Research suggests that some of the most effective ways to prevent malnutrition include providing iron, zinc and iodine pills, food supplements and nutrition education to populations at risk of undernutrition. In addition, interventions that encourage healthy food choices and physical activity for children and adults at risk of overnutrition may help prevent overweight and obesity. You can also help prevent malnutrition by eating a diet with a variety of foods that include enough carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
Severe cases of malnutrition, on the other hand, often involves more individualized approaches. If you suspect that you or someone you know is undernourished, talk to a healthcare professional. A healthcare provider can assess the signs and symptoms of undernutrition and recommend interventions, such as working with a dietitian to develop a feeding schedule that include food pills and meals.

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The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. while every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given.