Malnutrition: A Growing National Issue

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An Alarming Topic but Unfortunately a Growing Truth

Malnutrition Awareness Week is brought to you by the American Society for Parental and Eternal Nutrition (ASPEN) who want to encourage all to be apart of the solution when it comes to preventing Malnutrition.

Malnutrition hurts. Patience and awareness needs to meet knowledge in the form of education. The problem of Malnutrition is growing into a national issue, happening when people do not receive the necessary nutrients in their diet and results in the loss of muscle mass. Those who are malnourished are in grave danger for significant health problems. Adults who are malnourished are even more susceptible.

It’s a myth that people who are eating are receiving all the nutrients they need to live a well-balanced life. In most cases, people are not malnourished because of the lack of food. They are undernourished because of the lack of nutrients in the diet. A person may also be malnourished due to an eating disorder or a chronic illness that prevents nutrients from being absorbed in the system.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are over 462 million people in the world who are malnourished. In 2017 it was recorded that 41 million people suffered from malnutrition and hunger in the United States. That should be alarming!

What are the causes of Malnutrition?

  • Lack of food consumption due to difficulty swallowing or dental issues
  • Overuse of food that does not contain necessary nutrients (food from a drive thru window)
  • Mental health issues such as depression, anorexia nervosa, bulimia and dementia
  • Physical problems such as not being able to obtain food due to lack of transportation or access to prepare food properly; isolation causes a higher risk
  • GI Track disorders such as Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, or gluten intolerance; persistent vomiting can also lead to a lack of nutritious foods absorbed
  • Alcoholism
  • Children who are not breastfed, especially in a developing country

Children who are affected by Malnutrition typically grow up to be smaller and develop help issues as adults.

What are the symptoms?

  • No interest in food or drink
  • Tired or irritable
  • Feeling cold most of the time
  • Loss of fat or muscle mass
  • Higher risk to develop a disease
  • Depression
  • Lack of sex drive and issues with fertility
  • Focusing is difficult talks

More severe symptoms:

  • Difficulty to breathe
  • Elastic, dry, cold and pale skin
  • Eyes that may appear to be sunken in and cheeks may hallow
  • Hair thinning

People with Malnutrition are at a higher risk to develop respiratory failure and heart failure. The time frame for when total starvation can become fatal is only 8 to 12 weeks. Mental function and digestive functions will become serious long-term physical issues for those that suffer from Malnutrition.

Treatment options?

Treatment for Malnutrition depends on how that person who has become malnourished and how severe the problem is. A dietitian can assist with getting a person back on track. Treatment will involve changing the diet to include foods that are nutritionally beneficial while considering Individual needs. Dietary changes and supplements can help! A physician may also recommend the following:

  • Eating wholesome, organic foods
  • Healthy snacks between regular meals
  • Staying hydrated with healthy drinks that contain a substantial amount of calories
  • Calling for local delivery if mobility is an issue
  • Eating food that contains extra nutrients such as “fortified” foods
  • Understanding healthy fats and their benefits Healthy
  • Stay away from food and drinks that have empty calories
  • Learn about essential nutrients
  • Avoid high-stress environments
  • Find assistance within the community

Prevention options?

As always, it’s best to take precipitate action before a severe problem occurs. A healthy, well-balanced diet and regular exercise can prevent Malnutrition. Individuals should try to consume plenty of fruits, veggies, starchy foods, some dairy and non-dairy protein sources. The Eat Well Guide can be used to outline recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet.

Education and awareness are the easiest way to prevent malnutrition. A great place to start with learning more and asking questions is at ASPEN on Facebook. The food you eat really matters !