Malnutrition can be divided into undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition, which is when someone isn’t getting enough calories or nutrients, can be due to either an insufficient diet or a problem assimilating nutrients. Overnutrition occurs when too many nutrients are ingested. Both types of malnutrition can lead to serious health problems which can be fatal.
The main types of malnutrition caused by undernutrition include kwashiorkor, marasmus, and micronutrient deficiency. Kwashiorkor is a disorder that occurs when the body has an adequate calorie intake but doesn’t receive enough protein and required nutrients. The symptoms of kwashiorkor include edema, anemia, stunted growth, diarrhea, and skin spots. Kwashiorkor usually occurs in children aged five and under who live in regions undergoing famine because young children require adequate nutrition for healthy growth and development.
Marasmus is a type of protein-energy malnutrition. This condition occurs when a person doesn’t receive enough protein or calories. The symptoms include diarrhea, emaciation due to loss of fat and muscle, reduced metabolism, slower heart rate, and low blood pressure. Marasmus is often seen in the elderly and in populations where the people have no knowledge about nutrition.
Micronutrient malnutrition occurs when a person doesn’t receive enough vitamins or minerals to maintain health. Some of the leading worldwide causes of death are a result of the types of malnutrition incurred by micronutrient deficiency. One of the most common forms of malnutrition is anemia, or iron deficiency. When anemia is severe, it can cause extreme lethargy, headaches, dizziness, and shortness of breath as well as delayed speech and walking development in children under the ages of five. People may also display symptoms of pica, which means a person has a craving to eat a substance that isn’t food, such as dirt.
Some other common types of malnutrition are scurvy and rickets. Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C. Its symptoms include fatigue, skin spots, and bleeding from the mucus membranes. Scurvy was common in the past among sailors who didn’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables on long voyages at sea. This illness occurs today in famine-stricken regions and in industrialized countries where some people eat too many processed foods devoid of nutrients.
Rickets most often occurs when a person isn’t receiving enough vitamin D. It can also be caused by insufficient calcium intake. Rickets is often found in children living in developing countries. It causes softening of the bones, which can lead to fractures and deformity.