Malnutrition is a nutritional disorder induced by consuming a diet that is either low in nutrients or excessive in nutrients, creating issues in a person's health system. Proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, and minerals are some of the nutrients to be concerned for. Malnutrition is split into two categories: undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition occurs when a person eats a nutritionally deficient diet or has a shallow nutritional content relative to the biological norm. On the other hand, overnutrition occurs when a diet's nutritional content exceeds the necessary amount or value. Malnutrition is generally defined as a condition caused by undernutrition in most cases but not to dispute overnutrition. This condition mostly affects children under the age of 10. According to World Health Organization (WHO) research, nearly over 7 million children under the age of 8 die every year as a result of malnutrition (de Pee et al., 326).
Undernutrition is generally a condition brought by lack of basically high-quality food. This may be as a result of poverty or inflation of foodstuffs that might make it difficult to purchase quality food. There two main division of malnutrition, namely protein-energy malnutrition and the other one is dietary deficiencies. Protein-energy malnutrition comes into two adverse forms; kwashiorkor which is caused strictly by lack of sufficient proteins and marasmus which is brought by the deficiency of proteins and calories within the body. Research done by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) indicates that protein-energy malnutrition mostly affects expectant mothers (dee Pee et al., 341).
Causes of Malnutrition
The primary causes of malnutrition are poverty and unaffordable food prices. Basically, communities or regions struck by extreme poverty stands at higher chances of being affected by malnutrition conditions such as marasmus, kwashiorkor among others. It might also be a case where the food available is of low quality or rather does not contain the necessary and required pertinent nutrients responsible for keeping the body fit healthwise. The World Vision released a report indicating that approximately 2 million children under the age of 10 die in 2011 from malnutrition-related conditions. The report further indicated that the most adversely affected nations include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Cameroon, India, Sudan, Yemen, and some parts of the Philippines. Generally, these are nations whose income is a bit low and highly struck by poverty. A large junk of the population in these countries cannot afford to put have food on the table on a daily basis. Some of the organizations like WHO, Red Cross, and UN have risen up to combat this condition in the affected areas (Skrable et al., 260-77).
Effects of Malnutrition
Malnutrition provides an avenue for infectious diseases. It weakens the body's immune system, making the body susceptible to be affected by other diseases (Skrable et al., 254-70). For instance, malnutrition is a major driver for tuberculosis perpetuation. Some of the specific micronutrients whose deficiency can result in this include zinc, iron, and several vitamins. Deficiency of the three makes the body very weak in terms of defense against other infections. That is the reason to explain why marasmus victims are found having other diseases such as tuberculosis. Malnutrition also increases the chances of HIV transmission from mother to child as well as increasing the multiplication of the virus. Malnutrition also causes perpetuate poverty and low living standards as the victims are not in a position to perform or work to earn income.
Symptoms and Signs of Malnutrition
Some of the symptoms and signs of malnutrition include:
- Dryness of the eyes or generally pale eyes
- Loose and wrinkled skin as well as a low rate of wound healing
- The hair may appear dull, brittle, and scattered
- The victim can also have bleeding gums
- Muscular pains mainly in the thighs
- Wearing out of teeth
People suffering from marasmus also suffer from dehydration, which differs between children and adults.
Prevention and Cure of Marasmus
Marasmus is both curable and preventable. Some of the prevention measures include ensuring strict adherence to the balanced diet (de Pee et al., 324-25). Well-balanced food with enough nutrients like minerals and vitamins is essential for healthy living. A diet with a substantive supply of proteins such as fish, eggs, and milk is also very essential in children for growth and development. The other prevention measure is proper cooking of food. This is highly recommendable, especially when preparing raw food. It is advisable to cook food under high heat, which helps to kill microorganisms present in the food. The third preventive measure is by storing or keeping food in clean and dry places. Freezers are recommendable food storage facilities, as the temperature prevents the growth of bacteria. Utensils are also supposed to be thoroughly cleaned before putting any food in them (Miller, Dennis & Ross 115-19).
Some of the ways used to cure marasmus include vitamin B5 replenishment. Patients whose vitamin level is wanting can be administered with synthesized vitamin B5, which is vital in countering malnutrition. The other one is oral rehydration, nasogastric feeding tubes, as well as administration of intravenous fluids. All these are majorly used for patients who are in very critical conditions such that they cannot feed themselves at all. In some countries, nutrition rehabilitation institutions have been introduced to take care of children with marasmus.
Marasmus still remains a threat to the lives of many people globally, especially children. There are a number of interruptions on the world food supply that may result in increased malnutrition in the near future. Some of these disruptions include climatic change. Climatic conditions are very vital when it comes to the issue of food security. According to the report produced by the IPCC, regions within the sub-tropics and tropics are likely to experience major climatic changes, which are likely to affect food supply. These regions play a bigger part in the global food supply. For instance, between 1999 and 2001, Asian drought resulted in the loss of about 82 percent of livestock and a 55 percent decrease in wheat and barley production. The world heavily depends on this area for food supply. It is a wholly inclusive responsibility of nations and organizations to take care of food security to prevent future malnutrition problems. At the individual level, measures to prevent malnutrition are recommendable.
de Pee, Saskia, et al. "Prevention of acute malnutrition: distribution of special nutritious foods and cash, and addressing underlying causes—what to recommend when, where, for whom, and how." Food and nutrition bulletin 36.1_suppl1 (2015): 324-329.
Miller, Dennis D., and Ross M. Welch. "Food system strategies for preventing micronutrient malnutrition." Food Policy 42 (2013): 115-128.
Skrable, Kelly, et al. "The Effects of Malnutrition and Diarrhea Type on the Accuracy of Clinical Signs of Dehydration in Children under Five: A Prospective Cohort Study in Bangladesh." (2017): 254-300.