We have an opinion that undernourishment is only present among the poor that do not have access to food and water. These are usually the children or people we seen on the news or television. However, malnutrition can affect anyone, characterised by unplanned or unexpected weight loss. Nourishment is based on the quality of your diet and the amount of essential minerals or vitamins in your food. Learn about the symptoms of malnutrition in adults and children.

Symptoms of Malnutrition in Adults

If you lose 5 to 10% of your body weight within 3 to 6 months, unintentionally, then it could indicate that you may be malnourished. However, there are other less obvious signs of malnutrition include:

  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Frequent getting infections
  • Lacking energy (tired all the time)
  • Delayed recovery from infections
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Difficulty keeping warm

Symptoms of Malnutrition in Children

It is essential to regularly assess your child’s growth and development. These assessments should be conducted by your doctor. The signs that children show include:

  • Change in hair colour
  • Change in skin colour
  • Changes in behaviour (more irritable, sluggish and anxious)
  • Stunted growth (both weight and height)

Why is malnutrition important to discuss?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), malnutrition is the largest contributor to child mortality around the world. It is approximately 45% of all child mortality cases. Every year 1 million deaths occur due to zinc and vitamin A deficiencies. Stunted growth affects over 147 million pre-schoolers in developing countries around the world.

It is also essential to remember that weight loss is not the only characteristic of malnourisment. Other people that are at a high risk for malnutrition include:

  • Socially-isolated individuals
  • People with low incomes
  • People with chronic eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia)
  • Elderly (especially if hospitalised or in long-term institutional care)
  • People in recovery after a serious illness

Treatment for malnourishment usually relies on replacing the nutrients that are missing. Medications also treat the symptoms and underlying medical condition.

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