Malnutrition is a physical state that occurs when nutrient intake is not balanced. It can refer to undernutrition or overnutrition. Malnutrition has become one of the most prevalent and destructive condition and needs a quick and ideal nutrition intervention. The word ‘malnutrition’ immediately makes many of us think of a bony and a skeleton-framed body which is ultimately undernutrition. This is common in places without proper and sufficient access to food and clean water.
Consuming too many empty calories can lead to overnutrition. These individuals can be obese but malnourished. This is the result of not eating nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, beans, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds. This can lead to vitamin, mineral or protein deficiencies.
Clinical malnutrition may be the result of malnourishment of a hospitalized person. Almost 15% to 60% of the adults are clinically malnourished in hospitals. Various reasons can be quoted for this. It could be that their body needs additional nutrition than usual or nutrients may not be completely absorbed after a meal. Few patients may acquire the required nutrients through a tube inserted into their stomach or even intravenous nutrition, where the digestive track is bypassed altogether.
Research proves that clinical malnutrition increases the risk of death, prolongs hospitalization and increases expenditure on healthcare. Hence it is crucial that all the admitted patients are screened within 24 hours of admission to diagnose malnutrition promptly.
Every hospital has its set of registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) who function along with the health care team to provide the right nutrition to the patients. RDNs determine malnutrition by checking weight history, dietary intake, lab values and a physical exam which checks for body fat and muscle loss, fluid accumulation and hand grip strength. You can also get in touch with experienced dietitians and nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com.
Other common reasons for malnutrition include eating disorders, organ failures or severe infection or physical trauma like a head injury. Old age is also a common cause for malnutrition, specifically in those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Almost 14% of nursing home patients and more than 50% of rehab facility patients are malnourished. This is due to tooth loss and other dental issues, loss of appetite and functional decline which is frequent among older adults.