Written by Adib Irwan, Pharmacist AA Kelana Jaya




Malnutrition or undernutrition involves a dietary deficiency. People may eat too much of the wrong type of food and have malnutrition. Poor diet may lead to a lack of vitamins, minerals, and other essential substances.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 462 million people worldwide are malnourished and stunted development due to poor diet affects 159 million children globally. Malnutrition during childhood can lead to long‐term health problems and educational challenges. It can also lead to slow recovery from wounds, illnesses and can leave the body more susceptible to disease and infection.


Symptoms of malnutrition include:

  • Lack of appetite or interest in food or drink
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Always feeling cold
  • Loss abruptly of fat, muscle mass, and body tissue
  • Longer healing time for wounds
  • Depression
  • Reduced sex drive and problems with fertility


What are the types of malnutrition?

There are two major types of malnutrition:

  • Protein‐energy malnutrition ‐ resulting from deficiencies in protein or all nutrients
  • Micronutrient deficiency diseases ‐ resulting from a deficiency of specific micronutrients

Protein‐energy malnutrition

There are three types of protein‐energy malnutrition in children:

  • Acute malnutrition (wasting or thinness)
  • Chronic malnutrition (stunting or shortness)
  • Acute and chronic malnutrition (Underweight)

These forms of protein‐energy malnutrition in children can be pictured like this:


Micronutrient deficiency disease

Micronutrient deficiencies is due to deficient in several micronutrients, including the three

which cause the most common deficiencies, that is iron, vitamin A, and iodine.


How to overcome malnutrition?

The best way to prevent malnutrition is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.


  1. http://www.who.int/features/qa/malnutrition/en/
  2. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/malnutrition/symptoms/
  3. Mohseni M, Aryankhesal A, Kalantari N. Prevention of malnutrition among children under 5 years old in Iran: A policy analysis. PLoS One. 2019;14(3):e0213136. Published 2019 Mar 7.doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213136
  4. Müller O, Krawinkel M. Malnutrition and health in developing countries. CMAJ. 2005;173(3):279–286.doi:10.1503/cmaj.050342