It is a state of malnutrition that occurs due to too little or too much food intake and causes health problems. It is the disruption of the body's energy, protein and other nutrient balance. This affects the body's tissues and functions. It can be caused by not getting enough of the nutrients or taking in too much of the foods that don't have the right amount of nutrients. Overnutrition will be discussed in detail in the obesity section.

It is a state of malnutrition that occurs due to too little or too much food intake and causes health problems. It is the disruption of the body’s energy, protein and other nutrient balance. This affects the body’s tissues and functions. It can be caused by not getting enough of the nutrients or taking in too much of the foods that don’t have the right amount of nutrients. Overnutrition will be discussed in detail in the obesity section.

Stunting, low weight develops due to malnutrition.

The World Health Organization and many international organizations evaluate the term malnutrition together with low intake of food (undernutrition) and excessive food intake (obesity). You can find information on obesity in the related title. Here, we will try to express the problems related to malnutrition.

What is the incidence of malnutrition? 

Babies, children, adolescents, pregnant women, the disabled and the elderly are at greater risk for malnutrition. The World Health Organization states that one out of every three people worldwide has a malnutrition-related disorder. While obesity is mostly mentioned in developed countries, malnutrition, stunting, weakness and mineral deficiencies are mentioned in developing countries. The risk of malnutrition increases in urban life. Studies show that nearly half of the deaths of children under the age of five are related to malnutrition. There are still about 40 million obese children in developed countries. In developing countries, there are about 200 million underweight or stunted children.



Similar problems apply to adults. Currently, there are approximately 2 billion obese people, mostly in developed countries. There are also about half a billion thin or stunted adults in developing countries. Pregnancy problems, iron deficiency anemia in these adults, who are mostly women, and severe health problems in the elderly.

Increasing malnutrition is associated with unbalanced population growth, inequalities in access to food, and unbalanced economic data. Recent problems such as climate change and wars are also one of the biggest obstacles to access to food.

Obesity is mostly due to lack of physical activity.

What does malnutrition mean? 

It is a disease characterized by weakness and impaired mental and physical abilities, resulting from protein energy deficiency or micronutrient deficiencies. It is the most common cause of death in children, the elderly, the disabled and pregnant women. Depending on the level of malnutrition, it can leave serious physical or mental sequelae in advanced ages. Micronutrient deficiencies increase the susceptibility to infections.

Micronutrient deficiencies are mostly seen in the form of iodine, vitamin A, iron deficiency. Depending on these, blindness, anemia, weakness and death can be seen.

What is Protein Energy Malnutrition? 

It is an imbalance in protein intake and energy expenditure. It is of two kinds. However, sometimes they can be found together.

1.Kwarshiorkor: Caused by insufficient protein intake. Edema, weakness, liver enlargement (hepatomegaly), hypoalbuminemia are seen. The abdomen swells, there are pigmentation disorders in the skin and hair.

2.Marasmus : It is a lack of both protein and energy in the diet. The muscles are extremely weakened, skinny, severe weakening that does not leave edema is observed. It is seen in cases of famine, forced migrations, severe anorexia. 

When to go to the doctor? 

If there has been too much weight loss in the last 3-6 months without following a special diet, if symptoms related to malnutrition appear, especially if malnutrition is suspected in infants, children, and elderly individuals, it is beneficial to consult a physician immediately. Preferably, a general practitioner or family doctor will assist you and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

The physician will measure the patient’s height and weight, calculate the body mass index, make anthropometric measurements, and try to identify health problems related to malnutrition or overnutrition with anamnesis and examination findings. If necessary, he will request additional examinations. Among the tests, serum albumin, transferrin, fibronectin levels are checked.

The physician may ask the patient for a 24-hour nutritional history for a 3-day period. He wants to get the information about which foods he takes, how often and when. In this way, he tries to determine his eating habits. It is necessary to determine the daily calorie intake and the amount of calories expended.

Who is at risk for malnutrition? 

Malnutrition can affect almost anyone. However, some groups are at risk for adverse health conditions brought on by malnutrition. These:

  • Babies,
  • Children,
  • Pregnant women,
  • Disabled individuals,
  • Low-income individuals,
  • Isolated individuals (prisoners etc.),
  • The elderly.

Some diseases pave the way for malnutrition. In these diseases, good follow-up of malnutrition, taking precautions in the early period are important in terms of possible serious complications. Nutritional status should be well monitored in Crohn’s patients due to intestinal malabsorption. In addition, patients with cystic fibrosis, swallowing problems, and cancer patients should be followed up in terms of malnutrition.