What Are The Causes Of Malnutrition?

What Are The Causes Of Malnutrition?

Malnutrition can have effects like stunted growth, especially in children who need a good and balanced diet to grow. The causes of malnutrition include low food intake, digestive disorders and more..

Malnutrition is everywhere in the world. It is a widespread problem and causes of malnutrition differ. According to the World Health Organisation, Nigeria has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of children under five. An estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected is currently reached with treatment. Seven per cent of women of childbearing age suffer from acute malnutrition. Also, malnutrition is the biggest single threat to global public health. Globally, it contributes to 45 per cent of deaths of children aged under 5 years.

Malnutrition is also known as undernutrition. And malnutrition simply means poor diet or lack of food altogether. It occurs when the diet taken is low or not properly balanced. Malnutrition can have effects like stunted growth, especially in children who need a good and balanced diet to grow. Though the lack of food is the leading cause of malnutrition anywhere in the world, it isn't the only one. Some malnutrition can result from other health problems like eating disorders or any other condition that stops the body from absorbing nutrients. 

What is malnutrition?

causes of malnutrition

Malnutrition is when a person doesn't consume the level of nutrients the body requires for maximum performance. Malnutrition can cause the body to lack minerals, vitamins, and other essentials. When protein is not sufficient it leads to kwashiorkor, which causes a person's stomach to distend. 

If a person suffering from malnutrition during childhood, it can cause long term health issues. Other problems include having a small body when they grow up, slow healing of wounds, and other educational problems.

Causes of malnutrition 

causes of malnutrition

Malnutrition can occur as a result of medical and other environmental conditions. 

Digestive disorders 

This can happen for no fault of the person's. If the body refuses to absorb nutrients properly, even if the person is eating the best diet in the world malnutrition will be unavoidable. To enable absorption of nutrients, people with diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease may have to have their some part of their small intestine removed to allow them to absorb nutrients again. 

Also, recurrent vomiting and diarrhoea will cause a person to keep losing nutrients even after intake.


The pancreas helps digestion and too much of alcohol can end up damaging your pancreas or causing gastritis. If the pancreas is affected, digestion of food, production of hormones that regulate metabolism, and absorption of vitamins are all affected. An alcoholic may not feel hungry as any normal person would because alcohol contains calories. What this does is that it stops a person from eating properly and providing the body with essential nutrients. 

Low food intake 

This may be caused by symptoms of illnesses like dysphagia, which causes difficulty in swallowing. When a person feels pain with each food they swallow, they become less inclined to eat food and malnourished the body in the process. 

Social and mobility issues

Those who live alone and are isolated can have this problem. Some find it difficult to leave the house to go buy food or get supplies for cooking. Others have limited cooking skills that they don't bother trying at all.

Mental health issues 

Dementia, depression, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia—all of these conditions can cause malnutrition in a person.

Symptoms of malnutrition

causes of malnutrition 

Symptoms of malnutrition include: 

  • Longer healing time for wounds
  • Higher risk of complications after surgery
  • depression
  • Lack of appetite or interest in food or drink
  • Loss of fat, muscle mass, and body tissue
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • breathing becomes difficult
  • the skin may become thin, dry, inelastic, pale, and cold
  • the cheeks appear hollow and the eyes sunken, as fat disappears from the face
  • In severe cases, hair may become dry and sparse, easily falling out
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Always feeling cold
  • Difficulty breathing in severe cases
  • Higher risk of getting sick and taking longer to heal
  • Reduced sex drive and problems with fertility
  • The disappearance of face fat in severe cases, causing hollow cheeks and sunken eyes

A balanced diet is very important for the body to function properly. Don't just eat anything your hands can find. Make a conscious effort to provide the body with several nutrients like protein, fats, vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals and fluids for day to day performance. 

Read also: Breastfeed Your Newborn Using This Guide

Written by

Lydia Ume