Malnutrition is a medical condition that can lead to a number of nutrition disorders, such as anemia, beriberi, pellagra, and rickets. In extreme cases, malnutrition can lead to starvation and death. The causes of malnutrition are most often related to the insufficient consumption of nutrients, although malnutrition may also be caused by excessive or imbalanced nutrient consumption. Insufficient nutrient consumption is usually caused by conditions such as poverty, natural disasters, poor farming practices or lack of agricultural technology, or conflicts and wars. Malnutrition may also be caused by poor dietary choices, leading to the consumption of foods that do not have the proper nutrient balance for the continuing function of the human body.
Poverty is one of the most common causes of malnutrition. Malnutrition can exist even in areas of the world that have surpluses of food, due to the fact that a percentage of the population cannot afford foods with good nutritional values. This lack of purchasing power leads to hunger in underprivileged populations, which in turn leads to malnutrition.
Natural disasters, such as drought, flooding, hurricanes, or earthquakes, are also common causes of malnutrition. These natural disasters interfere with food production by killing or destroying crops. Uninformed farming practices, such as a failure to rotate crops, can cause soil erosion and infertility, which may also interfere with the production of food. Additionally, hunger may also be caused by a lack of access to modern agricultural technology, which allows for greater crop production. Lack of water purification technology is another one of the common causes of malnutrition, as unsafe water supplies can lead to infection and disease that cause people to become malnourished.
Wars and conflicts can also interfere with farmers' ability to produce sufficient food to feed a populace. This may be due to sudden labor shortages due to loss of life, or to the destruction of food crops. Conflicts may also lead to the destruction of utilities like electricity and water, which can also hamper food production and lead to widespread hunger.
In modern times, nutritionists point to a condition called over-nutrition as one of the primary causes of malnutrition in first world nations. Over-nutrition occurs when a person's diet includes sufficient calories, but does not include enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. This type of malnutrition most often leads to obesity, and related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Deriving a significant amount of calories from a single source, such as corn or potatoes, can lead to malnutrition, as can excessive consumption of empty calories and junk food. Another cause of over-nutrition is alcoholism, as alcohol is caloric and often causes the drinker to feel full, but does not contain many nutrients that the human body needs.