Malnutrition: what causes it and what are its consequences + Types

Malnutrition: what causes it and what are its consequences + Types
Photo source: Getty images

Even today, it is still a problem in many countries and can be found even in developed countries. In addition to malnutrition due to poor socio-economic conditions, we are also familiar with malnutrition that appears as a symptom of various diseases.

Malnutrition results from a lack of nutrients that are needed for the proper functioning of the body. This deficiency can have multiple causes. Therefore, we also divide malnutrition into several types.

Cachexia is also a term used to describe weight loss.

Malnutrition = malnutrition = marasmus = kwashiorkor = quarantine = cachexia.

The basis of primary malnutrition is to be found in inadequate food intake. This type is found in developing countries and in strata in poor socio-economic conditions. The starvation of models to keep their weight low is well known.

Secondary malnutrition is referred to when it is caused by a disease. There are a number of disease states that cause it. A large percentage of these are mainly chronic diseases.

Malnutrition is also technically called malnutrition. The name comes from the Latin malus (bad) and nutritio (nutrition).

Besides the division into primary and secondary, we know another division. It divides into energy malnutrition and protein malnutrition.

Energy malnutrition is also referred to as marasmus. It is caused by insufficient energy supply. A person affected by this type is thin, lacking or losing subcutaneous fat. But he has no impaired immunity and his blood protein level is normal.

fats, sugars, sugar cubes, butter
The body does not use sugar and fat for energy. Source photo: Getty Images

protein malnutrition (also known as kwashiorkor) is characterized by several symptoms. One is low blood protein levels and another is lower white blood cell levels, which affects the reduced immunity.

In this case, the body is unable to use sugars and fats for energy. It uses energy from protein as a substitute. The reduced protein levels subsequently cause swelling.

This is compounded by poor wound healing and the most severe complications include multi-organ failure, sepsis. A specific condition is carbohydrate deficiency. It refers to the lack of one nutritional element. This term includes, for example, vitamin or trace element deficiencies.

The most common causes of malnutrition include

Malnutrition occurs, for example, in various infections, cancers or digestive disorders, when the body does not get enough nutrients and necessary substances.

Cachexia often goes hand in hand with weakened immunity or a lack of red blood cells. Malnutrition also occurs in people with AIDS, a disease of the immune system in which the person also suffers from weight loss, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting.

female inappetence, vegetables, cabbage, onion
Women are more likely to suffer from anorexia. Source photo: Getty Images

Cirrhosis of the liver is a chronic process caused by the death of tissue and replacement by connective tissue. There is nodular remodelling of the liver in which malnutrition is also present. This is mainly due to lack of appetite.

The person subsequently loses weight, becomes tired and has defecation disorders. There is also enlargement of the liver. Alcoholism, hepatitis, drug damage or certain metabolic disorders that interfere with the proper functioning of the liver are most often behind cirrhosis.

Cachexia also occurs in pancreatic cancer. Since it is a very important organ regulating metabolic and digestive activities in the body, disruption of its function will manifest itself in multiple symptoms.

There are two types of tumors that affect the pancreas. They are ductal or mucinous tumor. Ductal carcinoma is more dangerous. This cancer manifests with abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue, decreased appetite and nausea.

Malnutrition is common in a variety of mental disorders. An example is anorexia nervosa, which is characterised by food refusal, weight loss and a constant striving for a perfect figure.

Most of the time, this disorder is typical of women who are not satisfied with themselves. Therefore, they either refuse food or try to reduce their weight by excessive physical exercise. Often they take laxatives or deliberately induce vomiting after eating in an attempt to reduce their food intake.

In some diseases of the nervous system, malnutrition can result from a disease state of the body. This is the case with Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative disease characterised by movement disorders, dementia and personality disorders.

In the last stages of the disease, a severe form of malnutrition is also present. Generally, people suffering from malnutrition should seek a doctor to help them improve their condition.

Consequences of malnutrition

Malnutrition is thus divided into several types.

It generally manifests itself as follows:

  • loss of subcutaneous fat
  • loss of muscle mass
  • swelling of the lower limbs and abdomen, i.e. ascites
  • deterioration of the psychological state
  • skin changes, brittle nails
  • in marasmus, weight loss due to fat and muscle loss
  • in kwashiorkor there is a normal appearance and also preserved body fat and muscle
  • impaired wound healing
  • decubitus ulcers are more likely to form
  • reduced immunity

Malnutrition in children results from the same causes as in adulthood. A striking example is child starvation in developing countries, in some African countries.

As a result of starvation, there is a loss of muscle mass, reduced blood protein levels. This results in a wasted body with a marked swelling of the abdomen. This is otherwise known as ascites.

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