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What is Malnutrition? What Problems does it Entail?

The malnutrition can lead to the development of chronic diseases, caused by inadequate supply of nutrients. It is important to meet the requirements to ensure that the body works as it should, maintaining a balance in the internal environment.

With this objective in mind, it is essential to plan a varied and balanced diet from the caloric point of view. Now, sometimes due to difficult access to food, and sometimes due to errors in the preparation of the dietary guideline, one can fall into a situation of malnutrition that is harmful to the body.

What is Malnutrition?

The first thing to be clear about is the concept of malnutrition, which does not always coincide with that of malnutrition. In the latter case we speak of inefficiencies in caloric and nutritional intake, while in the former, deficits of essential nutrients can be generated even while meeting daily energy needs.

For this reason, there are quite a few people who develop malnutrition and are not aware of it, since many of the symptoms appear in the medium term. It does not have to vary significantly the state of body composition in this state, although it can also do so.

An example of malnutrition would be a chronic iron deficiency leading to anemia, according to a study published in The Medical Clinics of North America.

Types of Malnutrition

Now, we are going to discuss the different types of malnutrition that can be experienced.

1. Malnutrition

In this case, there is an energy deficit that causes a progressive loss of weight and muscle mass. The problem is aggravated when protein requirements are not met, since in such a situation the risk of developing sarcopenia and functional problems increases. This is evidenced by research published in the Journal of Bone Metabolism.

2. Overweight

It is possible that the opposite scenario is generated, that is, that many more calories are consumed than necessary, which also has a negative impact on the state of health. Here the body composition would be altered, gaining more and more fat mass. It should be remembered that being overweight is associated with a higher incidence of chronic diseases.

3. Micronutrient deficiency

Even proposing a diet that is capable of being balanced from the energy point of view, it is possible to incur deficits at the nutritional level that condition the state of health. An example is the one already mentioned of iron, which can cause anemia either due to problems in intake or due to malabsorption.

Something similar happens with calcium, a key mineral for bone health. An inadequate consumption of it, and the maintenance of a low level of vitamin D, can condition the appearance of osteoporosis. This is indicated by a study published in Nutrients.

Also, short-term health problems can be experienced from insufficient intake of certain vitamins. The most obvious case is that of scurvy, caused by a deficiency of vitamin C.

It is clear that not meeting the requirements of each micronutrient generates a series of negative consequences. For this reason, it is important to avoid restrictive diets in terms of food, since their approach becomes complex and it is often difficult to ensure an optimal supply of vitamins and minerals.

Malnutrition-related health problems

Apart from the situations mentioned, normally associated with a specific nutritional deficit, we must highlight the health impact of malnutrition in general. The following problems may be experienced.

Inefficiencies in the functioning of the immune system

Failure to meet the requirements of vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc negatively affects the functioning of the immune system, according to some studies.

The differentiation of the cells of the white series is not completed as it should, which makes the body more susceptible to receiving infections.

Intestinal problems

The intestinal microbiota is one of the most affected when malnutrition occurs, according to studies.

In these cases, bacterial density and diversity are lost, which generates metabolic and nutrient absorption problems. Likewise, space is left for pathogenic opportunistic microorganisms to colonize, causing unpleasant symptoms.

Chronic disease development

Some of the micronutrients that appear in the daily diet have an antioxidant effect. They are capable of neutralizing the production of free radicals, thus preventing them from accumulating in the tissues. This reduces the risk of developing complex pathologies, as stated by research published in Advances in Nutrition.

If the amount of antioxidants in the diet is not correct, chronic health problems are more likely in the medium term. Cardiovascular disease would be a good example.

Scope of the problem

As you can see, malnutrition, due to a lack of nutrients or excess calories, constitutes a health hazard. The effects may not manifest themselves in the short term on some occasions. However, with the passage of time, a series of inefficiencies will begin to be generated at a physiological level that will condition the proper functioning of the body.

For this reason, it is essential to propose a balanced and varied diet. You have to try to maintain an optimal body composition state and meet the daily nutrient requirements.

A more common problem than it seems

Unfortunately, more and more people in the Western world are suffering from malnutrition. Either due to misinformation or carelessness, it is common to find monotonous diets lacking in quality nutrients. The reflex is the annual increase in chronic and complex pathologies.

To avoid such a situation, attention must be focused on healthy lifestyle habits, from the first stages of life. Although malnutrition as such can be corrected, it is better not to reach this circumstance now, as it could leave consequences.

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