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Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults

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Malnutrition is a serious health risk that can affect both adults and children. In this article, we will discuss the most common forms of malnutrition and the symptoms that they produce in the body.

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a lack of essential nutrients, such as protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. It can occur from a lack of food or from an inability to absorb food properly. Malnutrition can lead to health problems, including stunting in children, poor growth in adults, and even death.

Malnutrition and Deficiencies

Malnutrition and deficiencies are big problems in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, “malnutrition is the cause of 45% of all deaths in children under the age of five.” This is because many families cannot afford to have a varied and nutritious diet. Consequently, children are more susceptible to diseases, and their bodies are not able to develop properly.

In addition to causing death, malnutrition can lead to stunted growth, which means that children do not reach their full potential height. Malnourished children also tend to have lower IQs and are more likely to drop out of school. This creates a vicious cycle where malnourished children grow up to be malnourished adults who cannot provide for their own families.

malnutrition definition
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

Protein deficiency

Protein deficiency is a condition in which the body does not have enough protein. Protein is important for keeping the body healthy and functioning. It is involved in many processes, including growth and development, muscle function, and blood clotting. If the body does not have enough protein, it can lead to other health problems.

Vitamin deficiency

Most people are familiar with the term “vitamin deficiency,” but what is it exactly?

A vitamin is a nutrient that is essential for human health and can only be obtained from food. Deficiency refers to a lower-than-normal intake of a nutrient, which can lead to health problems. Vitamin deficiencies are common, especially in people who do not eat a balanced diet.

There are several different types of deficiencies, but the most common are vitamins A, B12, C, and D. Each of these nutrients helps protect against disease and plays an important role in various bodily functions. Vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness and other health problems, while vitamin D deficiency can lead to conditions like rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.

It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamins each day because not all nutrients are found in food. Some vitamins, like folate (vitamin B9), can be found in leafy green vegetables and fruits. So it’s important to eat a variety of foods every day to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.

Mineral deficiency

Mineral deficiency is a condition caused by inadequate intake of minerals. These essential nutrients are necessary for the body to function properly and can be found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and meat. Mineral deficiencies can lead to health problems such as weight loss, anemia, and fatigue.

A good way to determine if you are mineral deficient is to take a mineral test. This test will measure how many minerals your body is missing and will provide you with an idea of the areas in which you may need to improve your intake.

Folate deficiency

Folate deficiency can occur when the body does not have enough folate (a type of B vitamin) to function properly. Folate is important for a number of processes in the body, including DNA production and cell division. Folate deficiency can result in a variety of health problems, including:

  • Birth defects
  • Premature birth
  • A low birth weight baby
  • Anemia (a lack of red blood cells)
  • Mental problems (such as depression and cognitive decline)

Additionally, if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it is important to know if you are at risk for folate deficiency and take steps to improve your diet and lifestyle if necessary.

Calcium deficiency

A lack of calcium can lead to a number of health issues, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke. Calcium deficiency is a widespread problem, with more than 50% of women and 30% of men reported to have low levels of calcium. The main ways people get calcium are from food and supplements. 

Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is a condition in which the body doesn’t have enough iron. Iron is important for many important processes in the body, including growth and development, energy production, and immune system function.

Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, a condition in which the blood lacks enough red blood cells. It is common in adults and children, especially those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. There are many ways to prevent or treat iron deficiency, including eating foods containing iron, taking supplements, and using an iron supplement injector.

Zinc deficiency

Zinc is a mineral that is essential for human health. Zinc deficiency is a condition in which the body does not have enough zinc. Symptoms of zinc deficiency can include poor growth, anemia, and impaired immune system function. Zinc can be obtained from dietary sources or supplements. Prevention and treatment of zinc deficiency is important for the health of both adults and children.

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency

Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is one type of nutrient deficiency that can lead to malnutrition. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for human health because they help promote brain development and protect against heart disease and some types of cancer.

The most common symptoms of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency are problems with growth and development, poor vision and hearing, and learning disabilities. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can also lead to a host of other health problems, including heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

Selenium deficiency

Selenium is an essential mineral that helps to protect cells against oxidative damage. Deficiencies can lead to a number of health problems, including a decrease in thyroid function, impaired immune function, and heart disease. Selenium is also important for reproductive health; it helps regulate the production of thyroid hormones and semen production.

Copper deficiency

Copper is an essential mineral that helps with numerous bodily functions. Deficiencies in copper can lead to a number of health concerns, including malnutrition. Copper deficiency is most commonly seen in pregnant women, infants, and young children. Symptoms of copper deficiency include poor appetite and growth, easy bruising, and slow wound healing. 

malnutrition in adults
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

What Are The Symptoms of Malnutrition?

The most common symptoms of malnutrition are:

  • Thin and brittle hair
  • Poor growth and development in children
  • Recurrent infections
  • Bloated and swollen stomachs
  • Low energy levels
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Poor vision
  • Pale skin
malnutrition treatment
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

How is Malnutrition Diagnosed?

Protein-energy malnutrition can frequently be diagnosed based solely on physical examination and a history of your food and medical conditions. Your BMI or a child’s arm circumference may be measured by medical professionals to determine the severity of the condition. To check for particular micronutrient imbalances, they will request to obtain a blood sample.

Micronutrient malnutrition frequently goes hand in hand with macronutrient malnutrition, but it can also go hand in hand with macronutrient overnutrition. If you have those symptoms, a blood test will also identify the uncommon condition known as micronutrient overnutrition.

malnutrition icd 10
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

Who Are At Risk of Being Malnourished?

People who are at risk of being malnourished include:

  • Children who are not getting enough food or nutrition
  • People with chronic illnesses or disabilities
  • People who are homeless
  • People with a low income
  • Children under the age of 5 
  • Elderly people 
  • Rural residents 
  • Refugees and displaced people 
  • Workers in hazardous environments
malnutrition criteria aspen
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

What Are The Complications of Malnutrition?

There are a number of complications that can arise from malnutrition, including stunting, anemia, and more serious conditions such as pneumonia and diarrhea. In some cases, these complications can lead to death.

Protein-energy malnutrition, also known as macronutrient malnutrition, deprives your body of the energy it needs to function. It starts destroying its own tissues and turning off its functions to make up for this. This starts with its fat reserves in the body and moves on to muscle, skin, hair, and nails. Emaciated people frequently have protein-energy malnutrition. The growth and development of children may be stunted.

The immune system is one of the first to start malfunctioning. Because of this, undernourished people recover more slowly from illnesses and infections. Healing from wounds takes longer. Additionally, cardiac activity slows, resulting in low body temperature, low blood pressure, and low heart rate. People may experience faintness, weakness, and apathy toward life. Their digestive tract may atrophy in some areas, and they could lose their appetite.

Malnutrition meaning definition
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

How is Malnutrition Treated?

Nutritional supplements are used to treat malnutrition. This could entail supplementing with specific micronutrients or refeeding with a specialized, high-calorie nutritional mix created to replenish everything your body has lost. It may take weeks of refeeding to treat severe malnutrition. 

Others include illness treatment with antibiotics or other medications and food aid. The goal of treatment is to restore the body’s normal nutritional balance so that the person can improve their health and function. 

malnutrition criteria
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

What Are Some Home Remedies To Address Malnutrition?

While there are many ways to address malnutrition, some home remedies can be helpful in treating this condition.

One home remedy for malnutrition is to eat more nutritious foods. This includes foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Eating a balanced diet is essential for good health, and it can help to prevent or treat many health conditions.

Another home remedy for malnutrition is taking supplements. Supplements can provide the body with the nutrients it needs when dietary intake is insufficient. However, it is important to speak with a doctor or nutritionist before taking any supplements, as they can interact with medications and have other side effects.

Finally, exercise is another home remedy that can help to address malnutrition. Exercise helps to improve overall health and fitness and can also help the body to better absorb nutrients.

  1. Increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
  2. Incorporate high-quality protein into the diet
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
  4. Exercise regularly
  5. Avoid sugary drinks and processed foods
  6. Take supplements of vitamins and minerals if needed
  7. Seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.
malnutrition icd 10 code
Health Risks of Malnutrition in Children and Adults.

Final Thoughts: 

Malnutrition is a condition caused by inadequate food intake or lack of nutrients. It can lead to serious health risks, and it’s important to get treatment if you experience any signs of malnutrition. The best way to address malnutrition is to make sure you’re eating enough healthy food, getting enough protein and fluids, and exercising regularly. If symptoms worsen, please consult a doctor.

In conclusion, malnutrition is a serious problem that can have many health risks for both children and adults. It is important to get the proper nutrition in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

If not treated, it can lead to a number of health problems, including stunted growth, weakened immunity, and anemia. Malnutrition can also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Therefore, it is important to get adequate nutrition from a young age and to maintain a healthy diet throughout life.


This website is intended to educate both members of the general public and those working in the medical field on the prevalence, causes, and methods for preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases that affect people throughout their lives. This website’s content is provided solely for informational reasons and is not meant to serve as a substitute for the advice of a qualified medical practitioner.



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Yvone Del Rio, RMT

Yvone Del Rio, RMT

Registered Medical Technologist. Chef in progress. Former theatrical performer. Amateur writer. Optimist. Wanderlust. Dreamer.
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