As soon as we hear the word ‘malnutrition’, we’re struck with images of starving children with protruding bones, stunted growth and dry hair. Most of us would never think of an overweight child as malnourished. But malnutrition comes in various forms. The World Health Organization defines it as referring to ‘deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients’.
The term covers 2 broad groups of conditions:
Under nutrition – Stunting (low height in proportion to age), wasting (low weight in proportion to height), underweight (low weight in proportion to age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies
Overweight – Obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases, macronutrient overages and micronutrient deficiencies/insufficiencies
Typically, malnutrition is of two major types:
In India, malnourishment is a rampant condition. About one-third of Indians are believed to be malnourished and over 40% of Indian children receive less food than they should.
Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition
Reduced ability to heal wounds
Loss of muscle mass, body tissue and body fat
In extreme cases:
Thin, dry, inelastic or pale skin
Weak, lifeless and dry hair
Eventually, behavioural and intellectual development may also slow down resulting in learning difficulties.