Malnutrition or malnourishement is a condition that results from eating a diet in which nutrients are either not enough or are too much such that the diet causes health problems. Undernourishment is when the body does not get adequate vitamins, minerals and other nutrients adequately. When this happens, the body becomes weak and starts losing weight, leading to stunted growth and loss of energy.
On the other hand, over nutrition means consuming nutrients over and above the required limit. This can lead to obesity, which in turn increases the risk of type 2–diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
Malnutrition has become a serious issue, especially among children and the elderly. A malnourished person’s body finds it difficult to resist diseases and grow. Even routine tasks become difficult, and learning abilities too get affected.
Malnutrition can also lead to complications in pregnancy and decrease production of breast milk. Hence it is crucial for pregnant women to eat a healthy diet that fulfills the body’s daily requirement of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients.
Why does malnutrition happen?
The cause of malnutrition is a diet lacking in nutrients. The reasons leading to lack of nutrition can be social, psychological and physical issues.
Reasons for malnutrition
- Health issues: Elderly might have trouble eating because of dementia, diminished sense of taste or smell, dental issues, loneliness, failing health, lack of mobility, etc. The other factors that cause malnutrition in people is the use of certain medications, chronic illnesses, recent hospitalisation, etc.
- Dietary limitations: Dietary restrictions such as cutting down on salt, fat or sugar may help manage certain medical conditions, but they can also result in consuming inadequate nutrients.
- Low income: It becomes difficult to fulfill the nutritional needs of a family when there is only one earning member; especially if someone in the family is on expensive medications.
- Living in isolation: Some people may lose interest in cooking and eating if they are alone
- Psychological concerns: Grief, stress, loneliness or other psychological concerns can cause loss of appetite.
How to avoid Malnutrition
- A change in medication or being on one for too long can affect the appetite. If this is the case, it is best to consult your doctor.
- If a person is on a restricted diet to manage a certain medical ailment, it is better to visit a dietitian as they can help you out with different alternatives and a diet plan that provides adequate nutrients to your body.
- Have food packed with nutrients, such as fresh fruits and raw vegetables. Add finely chopped nuts to yogurt, fruit and cereal to make it a nutritious meal. You can also add extra egg whites to scrambled eggs and omelets and encourage the use of whole milk.
- You can make bland food tastier by using lemon juice, herbs and spices.
- Make some time for daily exercise to strengthen bones and muscles.
- Old people can opt for home cooked tiffin services if they can’t cook as these are hygienic and nutritious.
Side effects of malnutrition
Malnutrition can lead to various health concerns, including:
- A weak immune system.
- Slow wound healing.
- Frail muscles that can lead to falls and fractures.
The only thing that can help avoid malnutrition is a healthy and balanced diet. One which includes all the necessary nutrients. To get all the nutrients, all the food groups should be included in a diet, which are fruits and vegetables, starchy foods (Rice, bread, potato, pasta, cereals etc), milk and diary products (Cheese, yogurt etc) and non diary products (Eggs, fish, meat, nuts etc). Remember, a good and healthy diet is always the secret to good immunity, good health and a good life.