What is Malnourishment?

Malnutrition is an international concern that can be caused by social, environmental, and medical conditions. Malnourishment is a lack of proper nutrition that is caused by having an imbalance in the diet, resulting from consuming a diet that is too low or too high in energy and/or nutrients. Many people don’t realize that malnutrition can be seen in individuals who are both underweight AND overweight. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that over 600 million adults and children are undernourished, and more than 2 billion adults and children are overnourished.

Who’s at Risk?

  • People living in developing countries, places with limited access to food, or poverty
  • People with increased nutrient needs: children, pregnant women, and older adults
  • People with issues that affect nutrient absorption (Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, etc.)

Two Types of Malnutrition

Undernutrition – Undernutrition can be described by an energy and nutrient intake lower than what is needed to maintain good health. Undernutrition can put individuals at risk for stunted growth, and increase their risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity later in life.

Undernutrition can cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Loss of fat and/or muscle mass
  • Dry skin and hair that can be easily plucked
  • Dry, brittle, spooning nails
  • Irritability, depression, and/or anxiety

Overnutrition – Overnutrition is characterized as an excess intake of energy and nutrients over a period of time. Overweight and obesity are the main signs seen with over nutrition, and can lead to a higher risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

How Can We Prevent Malnutrition?

Malnutrition risk increases as we age; however, we can do things along the way to help prevent it from occurring in the future. Ensure that you and your loved ones are eating a healthful and wholesome diet every day – full of fruits, veggies, and complete proteins. Understand what your daily requirements for nutrients are: think about the Healthy Plate here! Remember to vary your fruits and veggies, eating a variety of colors and types to ensure optimum nutrition. Eat an appropriate amount of calories to achieve the goal of weight loss, weight gain, or weight maintenance.


If you have more questions about this post, please talk to your Health Advisor. We’re here to help!