Poor nutrition can have a significant array of health effects, ranging from loss of bone density to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Members of the lower classes are at particular risk of poor nutrition, as they may not have access to foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, making it more difficult to get proper nutrition. It is possible to consume well above the recommended daily caloric allotment while still not getting necessary nutrients, a particular concern in areas where populations may rely heavily on high-fat, low-nutrition foods.
Health complications of poor nutrition include physical disease, psychological problems, and cognitive issues. Physically, not getting the right assortment of nutrients can cause loss of bone density, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and conditions like gout, kidney stones, and gallstones, where mineral deposits develop because of dietary imbalances. Patients with poor nutrition are more likely to be obese and can experience problems like cavities, fractures, and muscle strain more commonly than people who are eating well. Hunger can also be associated with obesity, as patients may crave nutrients they are not getting from their regular diets while gaining weight because of a high calorie intake.
Psychologically, poor nutrition has a link with depression and anxiety. Some patients have eating disorders that cause them to eat poorly and create a cumulative psychological effect, where feedback from the eating disorder can cause depression and anxiety while poor nutrition exacerbates it. Eating disorders can also lead to severe physiological problems like damage to the esophagus from vomiting associated with bulimia nervosa, or long term heart complications associated with anorexia nervosa.
The cognitive effects of poor nutrition are also a cause for concern, particularly in young children. Babies and children who do not receive proper nutrition will experience cognitive delays and can be at a disadvantage among their peers. They may have difficulty acquiring skills and knowledge and could also have neurological problems like poor fine motor control or difficulty walking. In adults, limited access to good nutrition can be associated with memory loss and other cognitive complications. This damage can be permanent.
Poor nutrition can also be seen in association with a number of chronic diseases, like diabetes. Patients can become sick because they do not get sufficient nutrients, or a disease may get worse because the patient eats poorly. Bad eating habits may also increase recovery times from acute illnesses, surgery, and injuries. Patients with fractures, for example, heal faster and more evenly when they are getting enough calcium and other nutrients that their bodies need to rebuild bone.