What is Malnutrition?

What is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is defined by the WHO as deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. The term covers two broad groups of conditions – undernutrition and overweight.

Specific to Older Adults
  • 1 in 2 older adults are at risk for malnutrition
  • 300% increase in healthcare costs for those with poor nutritional status
  • 4 to 6 days longer in the hospital
  • $51.3B in annual costs for disease-associated malnutrition in older adults
  • 60% of older adults in hospitals may be malnourished
Problems caused by Malnutrition
  • Weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
  • Poor wound healing
  • Muscle weakness and decreased bone mass, which can lead to falls and fractures
  • Higher risk of hospitalization
  • Increased risk of death
How to Spot Malnutrition?
  • Observe eating habits – spend time during meals. If an older adult is living alone, find out who buys their food.
  • Watch for weight loss – help older adults monitor their weight at home. Watch for other signs of weight loss, such as changes in how clothing fits.
  • Be alert to other red flags – in addition to weight loss, malnutrition can cause poor wound healing and dental difficulties. It may also cause weakness, which can result in falls.
  • Know your loved one’s medications – many drugs affect appetite, digestion and nutrient absorption.


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