Malnutrition refers to energy and nutrient deficits, excesses or imbalances in a person’s diet. People who are either undernourished or overnourished suffer from malnutrition. Undernutrition results when not enough vital nutrients are taken or when they are eliminated faster than they can be supplied.
Some people overeat, consume the wrong food in their diets, don’t exercise enough or take too many vitamins or other dietary supplements; they suffer from overnutrition. Being more than 20% overweight or eating a high-fat, high-salt diet increases the risk of overnutrition.
Malnutrition in the United States
Malnutrition affects billions of people worldwide, and in the United States, chronic malnutrition affects about 1% of children. More children in the United States suffer from malnutrition due to dietary imbalances than from nutritional deficiencies.
Malnutrition in the United States affects around 40 million Americans, including 12 million children. Malnutrition affects young and older adults as well as children. They are frequently compelled to skip meals in order to buy inexpensive, non-nutritious food. Some families live in places where fresh, unprocessed healthful food is scarce or prohibitively expensive.
Prioritizing governmental policies that assure increased utilization of federal nutrition programs broadly available to improve the well-being of vulnerable Americans is one step to solving the problem.
Malnutrition vs. Malnourishment: What Is the Difference?
Although both terms refer to a nutritional imbalance, they are different in meaning. Malnutrition is a diagnosable disorder that requires treatment when a person receives too much or too few essential nutrients.
On the other hand, malnourishment is defined as a lack of nutrition that prevents the body from performing at its best. It is caused by a lack of food or a lack of food with the right nutrients.
Malnutrition Types: Acute Malnutrition, Chronic Malnutrition and Acute and Chronic Malnutrition
Malnutrition types are acute malnutrition (wasted), chronic malnutrition (stunted) and a combination of both (thinner and shorter). Malnutrition manifests itself in two ways: wasting and stunting. Stunting is a chronic condition whose causes are unknown. Stunting is rather prevalent in less-developed countries, and it usually poses no immediate threat to life.
Acute malnutrition is a type of undernutrition induced by a drop in food consumption or illness, which causes weight loss or fluid retention. As a result, a person who is in acute malnutrition can appear thinner than usual. This can range from mild, moderate or severe and prolonged malnutrition can result in stunted growth.
Chronic malnutrition results from inadequate nutrition over a long period, leading to linear growth failure. People who suffer from chronic malnutrition are shorter than average. However, people who suffer from both acute and chronic malnutrition are thinner and shorter than normal.
How to Prevent Malnutrition
Preventing malnutrition requires eating the right amount of nutrients and calories. Some households have limited access to fresh fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, protein-rich food and whole grains, and it will be hard for them to eat a healthy diet and avoid malnutrition. In addition, some people are not diet-conscious and eat large amounts of food that contain too much sodium, added sugars, saturated fats and calories but not the right amounts of nutrients.
Choose the right food that limits sodium and calories from saturated fats, and be sure to consume a variety of foods that includes vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and low-fat dairy. Opt for healthy beverages without added sugars, such as soft drinks and fruit juices. The key is to choose drinks that provide nutrients. If you are a parent of picky kids, train them to eat healthy and nutritious food at an early age. Vegetables and fruits are best for them at an early age.
Food Security and Food Insecurity
Households are food secure if all family members have access to enough food at all times to live an active and healthy life. Between 2019 and 2020, 89.5% of United States households were food secure. However, during the same period, 10.5% of households were unsure whether or not they would have enough food to meet the needs of all of their members due to a lack of money or other resources.
Uneven food distribution is a critical issue for the entire human population since it jeopardizes food security. Food insecurity occurs when a person is unable to receive a sufficient amount of healthy food on a daily basis because they do not consume enough food each day. People suffering from food insecurity experience persistent hunger and poor nutrition, making them less likely to live healthy and productive lives.
How to Combat Food Insecurity
Food insecurity is a global problem, and governments and international organizations have tried everything to combat it. However, there are some possible solutions to food insecurity.
One of the solutions is to reduce food waste. Yearly global food waste amounts to 1.3 billion tonnes. Food is wasted because of inadequate food preparations and inadequate food storage. Without these problems, there will be more food security.
There are ways to help people who are food insecure, for example, food donation in a collective way, such as the United Way of Central Florida, working with dozens of local organizations to fight against hunger. Food-insecure households rely on donated food from food pantries to help them stretch their budgets. To boost access to healthy food, focus your donations on healthy items like proteins and whole grains. There are a lot of organizations that accept food donations, especially non-perishable food items.
A Parting Reminder
As an individual, you can contribute to the food-insecure population. Some people are less privileged when it comes to choosing the right kind of food rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Lend a hand by food donation and avoid food waste in your own kitchen. Support an organization that focuses on helping against hunger and malnutrition. Your contribution to ending malnutrition and hunger makes a difference.