Malnutrition occurs when nutrients in the body are either not enough or too much. This can lead to health conditions like obesity, kwashiorkor, swollen body parts, stunting, poor energy levels, and other symptoms.
Heartbreaking videos of malnourished children with stick thin limbs and protruding bellies, living in war-torn countries, or countries with drought or farming.
Videos such as these have given many who are strangers to the continent the false impression that African continent is a study in bleakness, disease, starvation and despair. While not all African countries have political/religious conflict to blame for their malnutrition issues, some are caused by unhealthy traditional practices. One of such is the calabar fattening room experience in which the women were overfed to stupor. In such places, cases of deaths and health challenges from the diet were known to occur.
Even today, some are still conditioned to believe that an overweight wife or child is being well-taken care of the home’s provider. Malnutrition, which could be under-nutrition or overnutrition could lead to any of the following:
- STUNTING: This is when chronic or recurrent malnutrition results in the child not developing physically or cognitively, resulting in the child being too short for his age. These could lead to long-lasting effects evident even in adulthood.
- OVERWEIGHT: Usually determined by an individual’s BMI (Body’s Mass Index), the overweight person is one whose weight is too much for their height. This form of malnutrition happens when too few calories are burned in relation to the amount consumed from food and drinks. This increases the risk of non-communicable diseases later in life.
- WASTING: This is when a child is too thin for his height. This is happens when the individual loses weight rapidly or cannot gain weight. A child who is moderately or severely wasted has an increased risk of death.
If an individual is feared to be malnourished, the following steps should be taken:
- Identify the cause. The longer it stays unidentified, the higher the risk of damages with long lasting effects.
- Look out for risk factors as some conditions and stages require more nutrition e.g pregnancy, infancy, pre-school and school going children etc. Inadequate consumption of such nutrients could be detrimental to the individual’s health
- Take note of symptoms, which could be low energy levels, weight loss, brittle nails, thinning hair, dizziness etc
- Treat underlying medical conditions (if any), as malnutrition be caused by infections or nutritional deficiencies. Identify and treat such conditions to prevent further loss.
- Depending on the gravity of the person’s condition, medication such as supplements and liquid nutrition might be needed. More importantly, the person’s diet should be corrected to be better balanced.
- Ensure that the person is well and living a healthy lifestyle devoid of unhealthy habits. Beyond medical and poor nutrition, a person’s weight loss might be due to financial , mental/psychological problems, stress and anxiety, and other undetected secondary reasons.
Do you know the percentage daily value you are supposed to be consuming? Knowledge f all these are essential to eating more healthy and deliberate eating choices.