Malnutrition is a condition when there is an imbalance between nutrients that the body needs and what it gets. Malnutrition affects billions of people worldwide, regardless of age, and can lead to serious health problems, including stunted growth, eye problems, diabetes, heart disease and even death.1,2,3,4,5

Malnutrition can happen to anyone, but it is most commonly experienced by infants and elderly population. This condition is usually associated with malnutrition, even though malnutrition is not just lack of nutrition. However, overnutrition can also be considered as malnutrition. 1,2,3,4,5

Types of Malnutrition

The following are types of malnutrition including: 1,2,3,4,5

- Undernutrition: This type of malnutrition results from inadequate protein and This results in low weight for height (wasting), height for age (stunting) and weight for age (underweight).

- Overnutrition: This type of malnutrition results from consuming too many calories or nutrients. It can lead to obesity, heart disease, stroke and other health problems.

- Micronutrient-related malnutrition: This type of malnutrition includes micronutrient deficiency (lack of essential vitamins and minerals) or micronutrient excess.

- Diet-related non-communicable diseases: These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

Causes of Malnutrition

Malnutrition can be caused by a variety of factors, including:4,5

- Inappropriate food choices

- Low income

- Difficulty obtaining food

- Various physical and mental health conditions

Poverty magnifies the risk and impact of malnutrition. People with low incomes are more likely to be affected by various forms of malnutrition.2

Symptoms of Malnutrition

Nutrient deficiencies: 4,5

- Depression and anxiety

- Menstrual disorders

- Loss of fat and muscle mass

- Fatigue

- Dry eyes, night blindness, increased risk of infection due to Vitamin A deficiency

- Weight and appetite loss

- Delayed wound healing

- Changes in eating habits

- Flatulence

- Sunken cheeks and sunken eyes

- Dry hair and skin

- Irritability

- Difficulty concentrating

Nutrient overload: 4,5

- Overweight

- Joint disorders

- Fatigue

- Difficulty breathing and gasping for air

- High blood pressure

- Insulin resistance

- Heart disease

Prevention and Treatment of Malnutrition

Prevention and treatment of malnutrition depends on the type of malnutrition experienced. The following are some actions that could be taken: 4,5

- Nutrient Deficiency

For malnutrition, it is important to eat a balanced and healthy diet that provides all the necessary nutrients.

- Overnutrition

For over-nutrition, it is important to eat a balanced and healthy diet that is low in calories and high in nutrients.

In some cases, medical treatment may be required to address the underlying health condition causing the malnutrition.1,2,3,4,5


  1. - Lizzie Streit, MS.  Malnutrition: Definition, Symptoms, and Treatment.  Healthline. Last reviewed October 10, 2018. Available at:
  2. - WHO Staff.  Malnutrition. WHO. Last reviewed: June 09, 2021. Available at:
  3. - Cleveland Clinic medical professionals.  Malnutrition.  ClevelandClinic. Last reviewed: April 05, 2022. Available at:
  4. - dr. Fadhli Rizal Makarim.  Malnutrisi.  Haladoc. Last reviewed August 15, 2023. Available at:
  5. - Mitra Keluarga Staff. Malnutrisi Tak Pandang Usia, Cari Tahu Ciri-ciri dan Penyebabnya.  mitrakeluarga.. Last reviewed July 12, 2023. Available at: