Malnutrition: Risk factors and preventive measures

Posted on 14th Feb 2013 | 1313 views

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We need a new definition of malnutrition. Malnutrition means under- and over-nutrition. Malnutrition means emaciated and obese.Catherine Bertini

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a condition that occurs due to the intake of an unbalanced diet. Unbalanced diet may lack nutrients and too much intake or too few intake of food can be called as unbalanced diet. Malnutrition can also be referred as under nutrition or over nutrition. Under nutrition means lack of or fewer intakes of nutrients while over nutrition means too much intake of nutrients and proteins. Under nutrition is mainly seen in under developed and developing countries while over nutrition (obesity) is a problem seen in most of the developed countries. Many people suffer with malnutrition because their diet doesn it contain adequate nutrients, proteins and calories that are essential for proper maintenance and growth of the body. People can also be called as malnourished if they suffer with over nutrition (too much intake of calories). In spite of noticeable growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), malnutrition rate in India is increasing day by day especially in rural areas.

2. What are the causes of malnutrition?

Causes of malnutrition Malnutrition is mainly caused due to fewer or excess intakes of nutrients, proteins and vitamins. This can also be caused as most of the people don?t get proper food to eat especially in rural areas.Some of the causes for this malnutrition are listed below: Poor diet: Many people especially children do not eat healthy food. They eat junk food most of the times which doesnt have nutrients and proteins. Sometimes people avoid eating food because of illness or due to some disorders. These all will lead to poor diet and this in turn causes malnutrition.

Due to shortage of food: Food shortage is a main problem for developing nations like India. We do not have enough resources to provide adequate food for poor people. Due to this shortage many poor people especially in rural areas are not getting enough food to eat. This will also lead to malnutrition.

Due to digestive disorders: Now a day is most of the people suffer with digestive disorders because of not eating food at right time or eating unhealthy food etc. and some people may eat healthy food but their body cannot absorb nutrients that are required for good health. This problem is seen in people who have ulcers and crohns diseases in stomach. Patients suffering with severe diseases like diarrhea will lose many vital nutrients and this at very higher risk leads to malnutrition. Due to alcohol: People who get addicted to alcohol will only take alcohol without consuming food because alcohol will have some calories that will make person not feel hungry. This is a chronic disease and will lead to a condition that they will develop gastritis and lung problems. These will mainly affect body by degrading the digestive system and will decrease the metabolism rate. This can also be one of the causes for malnutrition.

Insufficient breast feeding: Malnutrition can also be caused when mother delay breastfeeding their babies, increased bottle or artificial feeding and delayed or early start of solid complementary feeding can lead to malnutrition in infants.

3. What are the symptoms of malnutrition?

Malnutrition symptoms may include: Anemia Depression Diarrhea Goiter Muscle twitches Scaling and cracking of lips and mouth Weight loss Dry skin Children who suffer with malnutrition may look shorter than their age, become thin and will have weak immune system.

Malnutrition in women and children: It is important that women should have a good nutritional status because it is through mother that the harmful effects of malnutrition will be spread to future generations. If a malnourished mother gives birth to a low birth weight child, it destabilizes the economic development of the family as the cycle of poverty and malnutrition continues. Mothers should eat sufficient amount of nutrients so that they can be healthy and in turn make their children healthy. Impact of this malnutrition in women and children can be severe if treated in the later stages.

4. What are the facts about Malnutrition? Malnutrition is a global issue and is number one threat to health in India as one out of seven people are not getting enough food to be healthy and active. As per hunger and malnutrition survey conducted by Nandi Foundation in the year 2011, 42 percent of Indian children under five years are underweight and are suffering with nutrition disorders. Around 110,000 children across the country have been the victims of this malnutrition. Some statistics about malnutrition are as follows: Every year around 10 to 15% of children under age 5 have been the victims of this malnutrition and it also impairs thousands of growing minds Around 47% of children under age 3 in India are malnourished. And it is also estimated that around 40% of the world?s malnourished children live in India. India is ranked at the bottom quartile of all the countries with 78 deaths per 1000 births According to a survey, 32 babies out of 1000 born are dying before 1 year due to malnutrition and other infectious diseases It is been noticed that the effects of malnutrition will be more during pregnancy and first 2 years of child life

5. Why and how to prevent Malnutrition? Malnutrition is a hazard to global public health and may lead to many dangerous disorders. Malnutrition has to be controlled as it is directly linked with child survival and development. Preventing malnutrition is very important because it leads to improved schooling quality and quantity. One more fact is that treating malnutrition is 27 times higher than preventing it. As malnutrition is caused due to under and over nutrition, it can be prevented with simple interventions and by taking adequate amount of nutrients and proteins.

One can overcome malnutrition by taking food that consists of: Carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, proteins, milk, fats and meat Consuming plenty of fruits, grains and vegetables can avoid malnutrition completely as these all are rich in nutrients, proteins, vitamins and minerals ??? ?It is better to avoid food that has high amounts of fat and cholesterol and eat variety of foods that have less amounts of fat and cholesterol and adequate amounts of salt, sugar and sodium Drinking adequate amount of water like 6 to 8 liters per day Doing exercise for at least 30 minutes a day can keep body healthy and fit It is good to maintain exact weight according to one?s own heightAvoid consuming too much of alcohol and also QUIT smoking And breast feeding a baby for at least 6 to 12 months is the best way to prevent early childhood malnutrition

6. What are initiatives taken by the Indian government to prevent Malnutrition?

Integrated child development scheme (ICDS) was implemented by our Indian government and is the single largest of all the food and supplement programs in the world. Under this scheme, cooked food is provided to children under age 10 as midday meals through anganwadi (community) centers. This scheme is also aimed at providing food supplements to other groups like pregnant and lactating women by covering all parts of the country. WCFC (women and child friendly communities) have been set up to take care of the health, nutrition, education and protection issues related to women and children.National rural health mission was launched recently which aims at allocating resources to correct the deficiencies in health care delivery in almost all parts of the country. CINI is life cycle approach includes vulnerable women during pregnancy, the first two years of life of the child and during adolescence. CINI has an association with the micronutrient initiative foundation in India to improve the distribution and consumption of vitamin A and ironfolate supplements for women and children especially in rural areas. National programs to overcome anemia, iodine deficiency disorders and vitamin A deficiency have also been implemented by the government.

7. What are the top healthy foods recommended to be fit and healthy?


Apples are the richest source of antioxidants like polyphenols which are proved to extend the life span. It is also found that adult females who regularly ate apple had 13 to 22% lower risk of developing heart diseases.


Almonds are rich in nutrients, including iron, calcium, vitamin E, fiber, riboflavin, and magnesium. Almonds have? more fiber than any other tree nut and will also help in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels.


Broccoli is rich in fiber, folate, potassium, calcium, beta-carotene, vitamin C and phytonutrients. Phytonutrients reduce the risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes and some cancers. Adding broccoli daily in meals can double its anticancer properties.

Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage etc have rich sources of vitamin A, B6, C, E, K, selenium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, copper, folic acid, potassium, calcium, manganese, betaine, and iron. Eating them uncooked or steamed or half boiled can give good results.


Carrot is rich in carotene (the source of vitamin A) and high in fiber and sugar content. These will make eye functioning effective and will avoid heart diseases

Oily fish

Some types of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies. These types of fish have oil in their tissues and around the gut. Their lean fillets contain up to 30% oil, specifically, omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish contains vitamin A and D and the oils protect the heart and nervous system.


Oatmeal or oats is rich in complex carbohydrates, as well as water-soluble fiber, which slow digestion down and stabilize levels of blood-glucose. Oatmeal porridge is very rich in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium.

Wheat germ

Wheat germ is the embryo of the seed and is a part of wheat. Wheat germ is high in several vital nutrients, such as vitamin E, folic acid (folate), thiamin, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as fatty alcohols and essential fatty acids and fiber.

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