Malnutrition awareness week: How to spot the signs
Malnutrition is poor nutrition often caused by the lack of consuming enough or eating enough of the right foods to give the body the nutrients it needs to function properly. What the body needs to keep you healthy is a balanced diet that provides enough calories, proteins, and vitamins.
According to the Coalition on Human Needs, 11.5% of people who were surveyed by the Census Bureau found that their household sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat. Those most at risk of malnutrition are disproportionately people of color, those with disabilities, and those who are unhoused.
The main symptom of someone with malnutrition is unintentional weight loss, however, there are others to keep an eye out for:
- Weight loss: The most common sign of malnutrition is the loss of weight, however, it is possible to be healthy or even overweight and still be malnourished. This is often caused by the lack of vitamins and minerals in your diet.
- Feeling tired or weak:
- Poor concentration
- Feeling cold most of the time:
- Wounds or illnesses taking longer to heal:
Symptoms in Children:
Children facing malnutrition in particular are at a higher risk of disease and death. Factors like economic, social, and medical can impact the burden of malnutrition on serious or lasting reproductions for the child, their family, and their community.
Other symptoms can include
- Not growing or faltering growth
- Changes in behavior
- Low energy levels
Any treatment for malnutrition should depend on the underlying cause, the level at which the person is malnourished, and the advice given by the healthcare professional in charge of care. The healthcare professional in charge of care must ask for the individual's consent to treatment, if consent is not given then they must ask in the individual's best interest by following medical guidelines.
Simple changes can also reverse the symptoms of malnutrition. Consuming nutrient-dense foods and drinks can help improve your body’s calorie intake. This can be done through the following
- eating 3 meals a day with 2-3 snacks or “little meals” in-between meals.
- Try ready meals if you don’t feel like cooking
- Add high-calorie ingredients into meals like full cream milk, olive oil, and cheese
- consume alcohol before meals as this can make you feel fuller quicker
- Stay away from low-fat, sugar-free, or diet alternative foods.
“Malnutrition.” NHS Inform, www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/nutritional/malnutrition#:~:text=Malnutrition%20means%20poor%20nutrition.,vitamins%2C%20to%20keep%20you%20healthy. Accessed 1 Sept. 2023.
Elliot, David, et al. “Food Insecurity Is Already a Huge Problem for the U.S. In 2023, It May Get Worse. .” Coalition on Human Needs, 23 Dec. 2022, www.chn.org/voices/food-insecurity-is-already-a-huge-problem-for-the-u-s-in-2023-it-may-get-worse/.
“Malnutrition Awareness WeekTM.” ASPEN | Malnutrition Awareness WeekTM, www.nutritioncare.org/maw/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.
“Fact Sheets - Malnutrition.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malnutrition. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.
NHS Choices, NHS, www.nhs.uk/conditions/malnutrition/treatment/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2023.