What are the chief causes of malnutrition?
Malnutrition refers to the condition of either a deficiency or excess of nutrients in the diet resulting in physical health problems. Types of malnutrition: • Undernutrition: This is a shortage of enough calories, protein or micronutrients in the diet. The outcome ranges from low height-for-age (stunting), weight-for-age (underweight) and weight-for-height (wasting). • Overnutrition: It is a condition marked by excess calories, protein or fats in the diet. Obesity is often the outcome. Why malnutrition occurs? • Less food consumption causes protein energy malnutrition and, in turn, disorders like Kwashiorkor and Marasmus. • Inadequate sanitation, poor hygiene and unsafe water also contribute to malnutrition and diseases in children. • Low household income, mother’s literacy, higher number of siblings and low supplementation of diets are other causes of acute and chronic malnutrition in children. • Disorders like diarrhea, HIV, measles and their related infections lead to reduced nutrient absorption, low food intake, increased metabolic needs and direct nutrient loss in the body, all leading to malnutrition. • Maternal factors like the mother’s nutrition during pregnancy and mother's body size can also play a role. Babies of young mothers who are not fully developed tend to have low birth weight. Iodine deficiency in mothers tends to cause brain damage and other forms of severe physical and mental issues. • Regular vomiting and diarrhea can also cause the loss of vital nutrients in the system and eventual malnutrition. • Digestive disorders that prevent proper nutrient absorption in the body. • Mental health conditions (dementia, depression, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia etc.) • Low food intake due to conditions like dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) or poorly fitting dentures are another cause. Those who do not cook at home or eat healthy meals outside may also fall prey. • Protein energy malnutrition is a condition marked by the deficiency of dietary protein and/or energy/calories in meals. It develops due to the shortage of any or all nutrients in the body from severe lack of food or chronic deprivation.
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