Malnutrition or Malnourishment is a situation in which one eats foods containing very low nutrients such as calories, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, or a case where by one one is oversupplied with these nutrients. When the person eats food that are low in the nutrients it’s known as Undernutrition while the case of oversupplied nutrients is called Overnutrition.
Malnutrition in most cases is generally associated with a state of Undernutrition. Malnutrition is not the same thing as hunger. People who don’t get enough food will experience Hunger, and over the long term, this can lead to Malnutrition. Also, picky eaters are likely to get malnourished because they are ignoring food containing the nutrients their body needs. Sometimes people Who have enough to eat might get malnourished simply because they are not eating foods containing the right nutrients.
People Who are at risk of Malnutrition include poor people, people Who live in poverty stricken areas, sick people or people that have certain diseases or the other, pregnant women and children.
Malnutrition during pregnancy: A woman’s nutritional status at the time she becomes pregnant influences her health both during pregnancy and after, and the health of her baby. If a woman is malnourished prior to conception, she may be malnourished and underweight by the time she gives birth, she may also lack the nutritional stores required to facilitate embryo growth. In the first few days after conception, the embryo (foetus) exists in the Woman’s womb but has not yet implanted into the lining of the uterus where it will grow through out the pregnancy, this stage is called the pre-implantation period and the period of the pregnancy in which cells divide and replicate rapidly. Maternal malnutrition can adversely affect the division and replication of cells in the embryo at this stage, impairing it’s development which in turn affects the development of the foetus in the larger states of pregnancy.
A woman’s nutritional status at the time she becomes pregnant also influences the differentiation of cells in the embryo into foetal and placental cells. When the embryo becomes implanted into the walls of the uterus, it begins to develop into two types of cells, the foetal cells and the placental cells (the placenta nourishes and supports the foetus during pregnancy). So when the woman is undernourished, a greater number of cells forms the placenta and because of this, the foetus grows smaller than it should. Malnutrition can also affect foetal development during the first five weeks of pregnancy (the period when the baby starts to develop brain, heart, lungs etc.) because during this period, the woman is usually unaware of her condition and so might not eat properly.
Malnutrition in children: malnutrition is estimated to be the contributing factor to more than one third of all child’s death. It’s caused by poor feeding practices such as inadequate breast feeding and offering the wrong kinds of foods. When infections are persistent e.g. diarrhoea, pneumonia, measles or malaria, they can also undermine a child’s nutritional status. Treatments such as the ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF) has revolutionized treatments, providing foods that are safe to use at home and ensure rapid weight gain in malnourished children. It contains vitamins and minerals that can be consumed directly by the child and provide sufficient nutrient intake for complete recovery. This treatment is already underway in some African countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia and Niger.
UNDERNUTRITION: a term used to describe the state in which someone is not eating the right food and is thereby not getting the right nutrients for bone growth and development, cellular respiration, proper functioning of the body and maintenance of the immune system. A sub category of this is Micronutrient deficiency in which the body lacks certain Micronutrients like iron, iodine, vitamin A among others.
1. Iron deficiency: absence of iron in the body, and it causes anaemia, deficiency of white blood cells.
2. Iodine deficiency: absence of iodine, it leads to a disorder called hypothyroidism that is the undersecretion of throxine by the thyroid glands Which may lead to poor metabolism.
3. Vitamin A deficiency: absence of vitamin A in the body, it leads to xerophthalmia the inability of the eyes to produce tears.
OVERNUTRITION : or hyperalimentation is the opposite of undernutrition, it’s a form of malnutrition in which the amount of nutrients is oversupplied to the body. Here, the amount of nutrients exceed the amount required for the normal growth, development and metabolism. Overnutrition van quickly lead to Obesity and sometimes they can be uses interchangeably. Normally the amount of food input must be equal to the amount of food output on a daily basis, but when the reverse is the case, obesity or Overnutrition occurs. Oversupplement of these nutrients can lead to many disorders such as
1. Vitamin poisoning- causes hypervitaminosis an oversupply of vitamins in the body.
2. Mineral poisoning- mineral toxicity.
Signs and symptoms of Malnutrition are
Underweight, overweight, obesity, bloated stomach, fatigue and dizziness, decaying teeth, poor growth swollen bleeding gums, dry scaly skin, problems learning, poor functioning of the immune system, muscle wasting, confusion, infection etc.