Malnutrition occurs when a person gets too much or too little of certain nutrients. Undernutrition occurs when they lack nutrients because they eat too little food overall. A person with undernutrition may lack vitamins, minerals, and other essential substances that their body needs to function.

Malnutrition can lead to:

  • Short- and long-term health problems
  • Slow recovery from wounds and illnesses
  • A higher risk of infection
  • Difficulty focusing at work or school

Some deficiencies can trigger specific health problems. For example:

A lack of vitamin A

Children may develop vision problems due to a lack of vitamin A.

A lack of vitamin C

Lack of vitamin C can result in scurvy. It can develop if a person does not have a varied diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Older adults, young children, those who consume a lot of alcohol, and some people with certain mental health conditions may be particularly at risk.

An overall deficiency

Lacking all nutrients can lead to kwashiorkor which is a severe form of malnutrition. One symptom of this condition is a distended abdomen.

Marasmus is another potential result of severe nutritional deficiency. A person with marasmus will have very little muscle or fat on their body.