Malnutrition is a severe condition that happens when your daily diet doesn’t contain enough nutrients. The condition means poor nutrition, which can also refer to:
- Undernutrition: Where you are not getting enough nutrients
- Overnutrition: Where you get more than enough nutrients
- Unintentional weight loss means losing ten or more percent of your weight within three to six months, which is one of the malnutrition’s primary symptoms
- Low body weight, where people’s BMI (body mass index) is under 18.5, is a high risk of being malnourished
- Lack of interest in drinking and eating
- Frequent illness or taking a long time to recover
- In children, not gaining weight as expected or not growing
Some health conditions lead to malnutrition.
- Long-term conditions like liver disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a lung condition), diarrhea, and vomiting.
- Mental health conditions like depression or schizophrenia can affect mood and eating desire.
- Conditions that impact food digestion, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- Anorexia (an eating disorder.)
Social and physical factors for malnutrition
- Poor teeth condition or dentures that don’t properly fit, which can make eating painful
- A physical disability makes cooking, shopping, eating, or moving around hard.
- Limited knowledge about cooking or nutrition
- Drug or alcohol abuse
The treatments depend on how severely malnourished they are and their general health. The usual dietary advice is:
- Consume fortified foods that are high in protein and calories
- Snack between meals
- Consume drinks that are high in calories
Some might also need support with underlying conditions like limited mobility—for example, occupational therapy.
Even after these changes and you still have difficulty in eating, the doctor might recommend:
- A feeding tube
- Nutritients directly through your vein
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022