Malnutrition is a medical abnormal condition, which is characterized by lack of, or excess of, or imbalanced proportion of nutrients in food intake. Malnutrition is a physiological state, in which the nutrients (present in the food) are either not properly absorbed, or not utilized by body mechanism. Although, the term malnutrition includes both presence of limited or excessive nutrients in food; in most prominent cases, term malnutrition is used to represent the condition of lack of nutrients. Malnutrition includes the diet products, that contains very less calories and proteins. Moreover, lack of availability of food (especially for poor families) and presence of low quality food is also included in malnutrition. Malnutrition, if ignored, can be extended to cause starvation, which could be lethal. Although, the condition is mainly observed in financially and resource-wise poor countries, it has also been observed in highly developed countries and continents.
The major cause of malnutrition include diseases and infections, poverty and food prices, dietary practices, limited agricultural productivity, natural and man-made disasters and others. Diseases and infections have played an important role in malnutrition condition. Various chronic diseases, such as cholera, chickengunea, gastroenteritis and others contributed the spread of malnutrition conditions across various regions of the world. Further, poverty and food pricing policies have contributed towards the enhancement of malnutrition conditions.
For instance, in Bangladesh, owing to decreasing standard of socio-economic conditions, the food and other prices were highly increased, which made it unaffordable for poor people. The major organs that gets affected in malnutrition includes eyes, face (moon face), mouth, hair, teeth, skeleton, skin, neurological system, cardiovascular system and others. Malnutrition is one of the most important cause of children mortality across the world. According to Save the Children Report 2012, one in each four of the global children population is lethally malnourished. According to WHO, around six million children die due to malnutrition and associated diseases every year.
The major portion of malnutrition management process includes provision of nutritious food at various stages. In the initial stages, the management of general symptoms of malnutrition is treated. These stages include treatment of hypoglycemia, hypothermia, dehydration, proper focus on feeding a child, infection prevention and treatment, identification and diagnosis of various other problems, such as, harmonic imbalance, vitamin deficiency, anemia and heart failure. To minimize the harmful impact of malnutrition, electrolyte balance and prevention of dehydration plays an important role. The ORS (Oral rehydration solution) contains essential electrolytes, such as, glucose, sodium, potassium, calcium, chloride, citrate, magnesium, zinc and copper.
The next step is provision of supplementary diet food, which may include food with rich contents of proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates and fats. Usually food products, such as, vegetable oil, sugar, cereal flour, milk, vitamin and mineral mix and other products are being fed to a malnourished person. Further specific treatment includes treatment for infections that lead to malnutrition problems and enhancement of food tolerance (including milk tolerance) and thresholds of body. In the end stage of malnutrition management, the treatment comes to rehabilitation stage, in which, the person is rehabilitated on the basis of nutrition, emotional and physical stimulations, training sessions for parents to avoid recurring attacks of malnutrition and other parameters.
Various governmental organizations and private NGOs are working on the prevention and treatment of malnutrition across the world. Some of the major organizations include World Health Organization (WHO), Action Against Hunger, Food4Africa, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Heifer International and many others.
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