Malnutrition has shown to be an important concern in women, children, and the elderly. Because of pregnancies and breastfeeding, women have additional nutrient requirements.  Children can be at risk for malnutrition even before birth, as their nutrition levels are directly tied to the nutrition of their mothers. Breastfeeding can reduce rates of malnutrition and mortality in children, and educational programs for mothers could have a large impact on these rates. 21] The elderly have a large risk of malnutrition because of unique complications such as changes in appetite and energy level, and chewing and swallowing problems.  Adequate elderly care is essential for preventing malnutrition, especially when the elderly cannot care for themselves. Malnutrition is a broad term which refers to both undernutrition (subnutrition) andovernutrition. Individuals are malnourished, or suffer from undernutrition if their diet does not provide them with adequate calories and protein for maintenance and growth, or they cannot fully utilize the food they eat due to illness.
People are also malnourished, or suffer from overnutrition if they consume too many calories.
- Causes related to food.
- General causes.
(A) Causes related to food: A lot of causes related to food are responsible for malnutrition.
1. Lack of nutritious and Balanced Diet:
Lack of nutritious and balanced diet is responsible to a great extent for malnutrition in children. In our country, because of poverty, there is a lack of essential elements like Proteins, carbohydrates, fats etc. in everyday meal.
2. Indigestive and Harmful diet:
Intake of indigestive and harmful diet is one of the main causes of malnutrition. Children belonging to the rich families do have expensive food items but in general these food items are indigestive and harmful. Intake of such type of food items often leads to lack of hunger and hence sometimes the children fall prey to malnutrition.
3. Lack of Regulated Diet:
Irregular intake of food is one of the main causes leading to malnutrition. The timings for breakfast, lunch and dinner must more or less be fixed. aking irregular meals causes indigestion and finally results in malnutrition.
(B) General Causes
1. Dirty Environment:
Dirty environment of home and school also causes malnutrition. In Indian cities the home and school environment becomes dirty due to lack of fresh and pure air, lack of sunlight, non-availability of playground, dirty lanes, which hampers right nutrition of children.
2. Lack of Sound Sleep and Rest:
Lack of space and suffocated bedroom causes lack of sleep. Lack of sleep results in indigestion, which leads to malnutrition. Lack of proper and sufficient rest also leads to malnutrition.
3. Negligence of Children:
Negligence of children at home and in school causes anxiety in children. This also results in malnutrition.
4. Bodily diseases:
Many children being infected from the diseases are neither able to have balanced diet nor their bodily functions take place properly resulting in malnutrition.
5. Heavy work:
The digestive process of children gets affected because of continuous hard work. Especially for the children of low income- groups, the heavy labour uncoupled with balanced diet take a toll on their physical and mental development. Nearly forty percent of total children in India suffer from malnutrition.
6. Lack of Exercise and Games:
The lack of exercise and games also leads to malnutrition. Even if a child takes a balanced and nutritious diet, the lack of exercise and games results in slowing down of digestive process and consequently the food is not digested properly causing malnutrition. This also causes physical deficiencies.
As a lack of essential nutrients is one of the main causes of malnutrition, the best way to prevent the condition is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. A recommended diet would be a diet that contains foods from all the major food groups. The four main food groups are:
- fruit and vegetables – eat at least 5 a day of a variety;
- bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods – eat plenty;
- milk and dairy foods – eat some and choose lower fat varieties;
- meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein;
- foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugars.
“Malnutrition is an impediment to development, and its presence indicates that basic physiological needs have not been met. What is observed as malnutrition is not only the result of insufficient or inappropriate food, but also a consequence of other conditions, such as poor water supply and sanitation and a high prevalence of disease. Thus reversing the procedure is complex, because many issues need to be addressed more or less simultaneously. And every situation is different, so that there is no single solution for all.
There can only be general guidance on directions to pursue. Experience from lessons learnt shows that considerable time is needed to redress a situation (ten years and more), and that a strong supportive political and policy environment remains crucial throughout the period. There is no “quick-fix” to this problem. Once achieved, however, the effect is likely to become permanent, offering a substantial return on investment. ”Malnutrition continues to be a significant problem all over the world, especially among children.
Poverty, natural disasters, political problems, and war all contribute to conditions — even epidemics — of malnutrition and starvation, and not just in developing countries. In some cases, malnutrition is very mild and causes no symptoms. However, sometimes it can be so severe that the damage done to the body is permanent, even though you survive. Symptoms The most common symptom of malnutrition is unplanned weight loss. If you lose 10% of your body weight in the course of three months and are not dieting, it could be a sign that you are malnourished. n adults, a useful method of assessing whether you are malnourished is to measure your body mass index (BMI). This is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres squared. For most adults a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Other symptoms include:
- weakening of the muscles, which then begin to waste away;
- feeling tired all the time and lacking energy;
- increased vulnerability to infection;
- delayed wound healing;
- your nails become brittle your skin becomes dry and flaky;
- persistent diarrhoea;
- in women, periods become irregular or stop altogether.
Children Symptoms of malnutrition in children can include:
- failure to grow at the expected rate, both in terms of weight and height;
- changes in behaviour such as appearing unusually irritable, sluggish or anxious;
- changes in hair and skin colour;
- hair loss;
- swelling of the stomach and legs (this last symptom usually only occurs if a child is severely malnourished).