Introduction

Malnutrition, Nutritional disorder (disorder), Nutritional disease, Disorder of nutrition,Malnutrition (calorie) (disorder), Malnutrition, calorie,

Malnutrition is a serious condition that occurs when a persons diet doesn't contain the right amount of nutrients.

Malnutrition means "poor nutrition" and can refer to:

  • undernutrition when you don't get enough nutrients
  • overnutrition when you get more nutrients than you need

This topic focuses on undernutrition. See Obesity for more information about the main problems associated with overnutrition.

Who's affected by malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a common health problem. There are an estimated 3 million malnourished people in the UK at any time, with many more at risk of becoming malnourished.

Around one in three people admitted to hospital or care homes in the UK are found to be malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.

Malnutrition is caused by having an inadequate diet or a problem absorbing nutrients from food. There are many reasons why these might happen, including having reduced mobility, a long-term health condition, or a low income.

However, people with undernutrition can also be overweight if they eat a diet high in energy (calories), but low in other nutrients.

Signs of malnutrition in children can include failure to grow at the expected rate and changes in behaviour, such as appearing unusually irritable, sluggish or anxious.

Your childs weight and physical development should be regularly assessed by your GP when your child is young. Speak to your GP or health visitor if you have any concerns about your childs health or development.

You can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to work out your BMI.

You should visit your GP if you believe you or someone you care for is at risk of malnutrition. They can check for signs of malnourishment and any conditions that may cause malnutrition.

If you're undernourished, you may need to increase the nutritional content of your food, with or without taking nutritional supplements.

If you're unable to eat enough to meet your nutritional needs you may need:

  • a feeding tube to provide nutrients directly into your digestive system
  • a drip to provide nutrients and fluids directly into a vein

To stay healthy, you need to eat a variety of foods from the four main food groups including:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • plenty of bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods
  • some milk and dairy foods
  • some meat , fish , eggs , beans and other non dairy sources of protein

The eatwell plate shows the different types of food you need to eat (and in what proportions) to maintain a well-balanced and healthy diet.

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Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 17 Sep 2015