7.1.2  Types of malnutrition

There are two types of malnutrition:

  • Protein-energy malnutrition
  • Micronutrient malnutrition or deficiency.

Protein-energy malnutrition

Protein-energy malnutrition, as its name implies, is lack of adequate protein and/or calories in the body. This can be acute or chronic.

Chronic protein-energy malnutrition is manifested by stunting, which means short height or length for age. Stunting occurs as a result of lack of food, or an illness which has been there for a long period of time.

Acute protein-energy malnutrition is the term used to cover both moderate and severe wasting and nutritional oedema, which is swelling of parts of the body due to fluid building up in the tissues (also known as kwashiorkor). Acute protein-energy malnutrition occurs as a result of a recent lack of nutrients or illness. This study session focuses in particular on acute malnutrition.

Micronutrient malnutrition or deficiency

A child whose diet lacks the recommended amounts of essential vitamins and minerals can develop micronutrient malnutrition. The child may not be eating enough of the recommended amounts of specific vitamins (such as vitamin A) or minerals (such as iron). Examples of foods that are rich in vitamin A include liver, egg yolk, milk and milk products from animals, as well as green leaves and yellow fruits and vegetables from plants. Foods that are rich in iron include animal sources such as flesh or meat, and foods prepared from blood and organs such as the liver of birds and fish.

Other causes of anaemia

A child can also develop anaemia as a result of:

  • Infections
  • Parasites such as hookworm or whipworm: these parasites can cause blood loss from the gut and lead to anaemia
  • Malaria: often anaemia is a result of a combination of malnutrition and malaria.

7.1.1  Causes of malnutrition

7.2  Checking the sick child for malnutrition and anaemia