Malnutrition and Its Problems

Did you know that many people in the developed world experience malnutrition but aren't even that thin? Today's article will explain why.
Malnutrition and Its Problems

Last update: 26 September, 2021

Malnutrition can lead to the development of chronic diseases caused by inadequate nutrient intake. Thus, it’s important to meet the requirements and ensure proper body function, maintaining a balance in the internal environment.

A varied and calorically balanced diet is essential to do so. However, this is sometimes difficult because there’s no access to food, and other times due to a wrong dietary. In any case, malnutrition is bad for you.

What’s malnutrition?

The first thing to be clear about is the actual meaning of malnutrition, which isn’t the same as undernutrition. The latter refers to inefficiencies in caloric and nutritional intake, while the former can generate deficits of essential nutrients even when a person is meeting their daily energy needs.

For this reason, many people develop malnutrition and aren’t even aware of it. This is because many of the symptoms appear in the medium term. The state of body composition doesn’t necessarily vary significantly in this state but it might.

An example of malnutrition would be a chronic iron deficiency leading to anemia. At least, according to a study published in The Medical Clinics of North America.

Now, let’s discuss the different types of malnutrition a person might experience.

A thin person experiencing malnutrition.
Malnutrition is usually associated with extreme thinness but it isn’t always the case.

Nutrient deficiency

This happens when there’s an energy deficit that causes a progressive loss of weight and muscle mass. The problem worsens when a person doesn’t meet their protein requirements. This is because the risk of developing sarcopenia and functional problems increases. There’s evidence of it in the research published in the Journal of Bone Metabolism.

Overweight

Some people consume more calories than they need and it also harms their health. This is mainly because their body composition alters by gaining too much fat mass. You might not be aware of it but overweight people have a higher incidence of chronic conditions.

Micronutrient deficiency

Even if you follow a balanced diet (from an energetic point of view) you might still incur nutritional deficits that condition the state of your health. The aforementioned iron deficiency, for example, can lead to anemia. This is either due to intake problems or malabsorption.

Something similar happens with calcium — a determining mineral for bone health. An inadequate intake of it, and the maintenance of a low vitamin D level, can lead to the onset of osteoporosis. A study published in Nutrients discusses this in-depth.

Likewise, you could experience health problems in the short term due to an insufficient intake of certain vitamins. The most obvious case is that of scurvy, caused by a vitamin C deficiency.

As you can see, not meeting the requirements of each micronutrient generates a series of negative consequences. It’s, therefore, important to avoid restrictive diets, as their approach is complex. Thus, it’s often difficult to ensure an optimal supply of vitamins and minerals.

In addition to the situations mentioned above, usually associated with a specific nutritional deficit, it’s important to highlight the health impact of malnutrition in general. A person may experience the following problems.

Inefficiencies in the functioning of the immune system

The failure to absorb vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc negatively affects the immune system. At least according to some studies.

This is because the differentiation of white series cells doesn’t happen as it should and makes the body susceptible to infection.

Children eating from the same plate.
This problem is more common in developing countries.

Gut problems

The intestinal microbiota is one of the most affected when malnutrition occurs, according to studies.

In these cases, bacterial density and diversity are lost, which generates metabolic and nutrient absorption problems. Thus, it makes space for pathogenic opportunistic microorganisms to colonize, causing unpleasant symptoms.

Development of chronic diseases

Some of the micronutrients in the daily diet have an antioxidant effect. They can neutralize the production of free radicals and keep them from accumulating in the tissues. This reduces the risk of developing complex pathologies, according to research published in Advances in Nutrition.

Improper intake of antioxidants is more likely to lead to chronic health problems in the medium term. Cardiovascular diseases are a good example.

The scope of the problem

As you can see, malnutrition, whether due to a lack of nutrients or an excess of calories, constitutes a health hazard. The effects may not manifest in the short term on some occasions. However, a series of inefficiencies will happen at a physiological level and condition the proper functioning of the organism as time goes by.

For this reason, it’s essential to establish a balanced diet. You must try to maintain optimal body composition and cover the daily nutrient requirements.

Malnutrition, a problem that is more common than it may seem

Unfortunately, more and more people are experiencing malnutrition in the Western world. It’s common to find monotonous diets that are low in quality nutrients be it due to misinformation or neglect. This is reflected in the annual increase in chronic and complex pathologies.

To prevent this, people must adopt healthy lifestyle habits from the earliest stages of life. Malnutrition can be corrected. It’s just better to prevent it to begin with.

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