What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a common, unrecognized and as a result sometimes untreated problem facing patients and the elderly.

It may be considered both as a cause and also as a consequence of disease and it is particularly widespread in hospital and nursing home settings. About 1/3 of a hospital or nursing home population is affected by malnutrition.

Malnutrition is a broad term that can be used to describe any imbalance in nutrition. It can be defined as a “state of nutrition in which a deficiency or excess (or imbalance) of energy, protein and other nutrients causes measurable adverse effects on tissue/body form and function, and clinical outcome”.

In most of the world, malnutrition is present in the form of undernutrition, which is caused by not enough food being available and by poor food quality. However, sometimes even overweight people suffer from an insufficient nutritional intake and can become malnourished. In these cases the patient’s weight can be misinterpreted and malnutrition may not be detected.