What are the causes of malnutrition?

Patients may either have an increased need for food or they may not be able to absorb the food properly due to impaired health status or to actual illness. Food intake may also decrease due to loss of appetite, changes in taste or smell, pain or psychological conditions.

Malnutrition can result from:

  • Poor food intake
  • Weight loss despite normal food intake (malabsorption)
  • Increased uptake of nutrients/special nutrient requirements
  • Increased nutrient loss
  • Omission of essential nutrients

There are several conditions that can be the cause of malnutrition:

  • Long-term (chronic) diseases such as COPD
  • Malignant diseases (cancer)
  • Pain
  • Surgery
  • Long-term medication
  • Psychological conditions such as depressions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Tiredness, loss of energy
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Problems in chewing or swallowing

There are several signs that help you to detect malnutrition:

  • Clothes, rings, jewellery, dentures may become loose
  • Reduced ability to perform normal tasks
  • Reduced physical performance – e.g. not being able to walk as far or as fast as usual
  • Altered mood – such as lethargy and depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor growth in children