Mal­nour­ished chil­dren may be under­nour­ished or overnour­ished. Under­nu­tri­tion may result from too few essen­tial nutri­ents or using or excret­ing nutri­ents more quickly than they are restored to the body. Over­nu­tri­tion may result from con­sum­ing too many calories.

Con­t­a­m­i­nated food is a major cause of diar­rhea, sub­stan­tially con­tribut­ing to mal­nu­tri­tion and killing about 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple each year, most of them chil­dren.” ~ Gro Harlem Brundtland

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Mal­nu­tri­tion refers to “bad nour­ish­ment.” It col­lec­tively refers to the con­di­tion where indi­vid­u­als are either under­nour­ished or overnour­ished. Mar­garet Haerens says that under­nu­tri­tion may occur as a result of tak­ing too few essen­tial nutri­ents or using or excret­ing them more quickly than they are restored to the body. Over­nu­tri­tion, on the other hand, may occur as a result of con­sum­ing too many calo­ries. Groups of peo­ple who are at high­est risk of expe­ri­enc­ing mal­nu­tri­tion (under­nu­tri­tion) are elderly peo­ple, indi­vid­u­als with low incomes, indi­vid­u­als with chronic eat­ing dis­or­ders such as anorexia, and indi­vid­u­als con­va­lesc­ing fol­low­ing a seri­ous dis­ease or condition.

Don Nardo sug­gests that some signs and symp­toms of mal­nu­tri­tion (under­nu­tri­tion) include loss of fat (adi­pose tis­sue), breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, depres­sion, higher risk of hypother­mia (abnor­mally low body tem­per­a­ture), low­ered mus­cle mass, longer recov­ery from dis­eases, and gen­eral body weak­ness. Mal­nu­tri­tion, the con­se­quence of insuf­fi­ciency of essen­tial nutri­ents, may be caused by sev­eral fac­tors, includ­ing con­sump­tion of poor diet, men­tal health prob­lems, dif­fi­culty in prepar­ing food, diges­tive dis­or­ders and stom­ach con­di­tions, and alco­holism. Lisa Smith and Lawrence Had­dad sug­gest that mal­nu­tri­tion is usu­ally caused by food short­ages, unsteady food prices, improper food dis­tri­b­u­tion, or lack of breast­feed­ing in devel­op­ing coun­tries. The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion says that mal­nu­tri­tion, affect­ing nearly one hun­dred mil­lion peo­ple in the world every year, is by far the biggest sin­gle threat to the world’s pub­lic health.

Smith, L. & Had­dad, L. (2000). Explain­ing Child Mal­nu­tri­tion in Devel­op­ing Coun­tries: A Cross-Country Analy­sis. Wash­ing­ton, DC: Inter­na­tional Food Pol­icy Research Insti­tute.
Haerens, M. (2009). Mal­nu­tri­tion. Detroit, MI: Green­haven Press.
Nardo, D. (2007). Mal­nu­tri­tion. Detroit: Lucent Books.


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