More parents are aiming to make their kids fat or chubby. They mistakenly think that a child being chubby or fat means they are healthy. In this article, we discussed what malnutrition is and what are the effects and signs of malnutrition in children.
“Oh! Your baby is fat, it’s so healthy!” “Your baby’s body is so healthy with all that fats!” “I hope my baby will always be fat, so they will remain healthy.”
We often heard these statements every time we see chubby and fat kids. But is it right to call a chubby kid healthy?
It is common for chubby or fat kids to be labeled healthy. While kids with petite or skinny body are called “lampayatot” and are seen as someone who lacks proper nutrition –in other words, they are malnourished.
But when can we say that a child is malnourished? Can it be measured by how much they weigh? Can it be seen in their appearance?
What is malnutrition? Malnutrition meaning
It is important for us to know what is malnutrition. Malnutrition meaning, according to World Health Organization (WHO), is characterized by inadequate or excessive nutrient intake, an unbalanced intake of vital nutrients, or poor nutrient use.
“Malnutrition refers to deficiencies or excesses in nutrient intake, imbalance of essential nutrients or impaired nutrient utilization. The double burden of malnutrition consists of both undernutrition and overweight and obesity, as well as diet-related noncommunicable diseases.”
What type of issue is malnutrition?
If you are thinking about what type of issue is malnutrition, malnutrition is part of health issues.
Malnutrition in the Philippines
Malnutrition in the Philippines is one of the crucial issues that need to be addressed in the country. According to the data of WHO, 95 children are dying in the country daily because of malnutrition. On the other hand, there are 27 in every 1,000 Filipino children are dying even before they reach the age of 5 years old because of this condition.
Most malnourished kids are too little for their age. And without intervention, their condition can be permanent until they get old.
As what is stated by WHO, it is not only those who are skinny who are malnourished, even those who are too fat or obese are considered malnourished. That is why it is not true that when you have an obese child, that means they are healthy.
“It’s common if you’re consuming too many calories but not eating enough or the right amount of nutrients, that can cause malnutrition,” said Heather A. Eicher-Miller, associate professor in the Department of Nutrition Science in Purdue University.
Causes of malnutrition
Aside from being informed of what is malnutrition, it is also important to know what are the causes of malnutrition.
For kids, the most common cause of malnutrition is the lack of vitamins and nutrients from the food they eat. Additionally, there are conditions where malnutrition is caused by mental or developmental disorders. In this case, their body cannot absorb the nutrients from what they eat.
In addition, if the mother experience nutrient deficiency while pregnant, it can also be a factor in malnutrition in children.
What is malnutrition: Types of malnutrition
Here are the 4 broad forms or types of undernutrition according to WHO:
- Wasting – Wasting is the term for low weight-to-height. It typically denotes recent and significant weight loss as a result of inadequate dietary intake and/or an infectious condition, like diarrhea, that led the person to lose weight. Although there is treatment available, a small child who is moderately or severely wasted has an increased risk of dying.
- Stunting – Stunting is characterized by low height-for-age. It is the outcome of persistent or ongoing undernutrition, which is frequently accompanied by low socioeconomic circumstances, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or unsuitable baby and young child feeding and care in the early years of life.
- Underweight – Children who are underweight have low weights for their age. An underweight child may be wasted, stunted, or both.
- Micronutrient deficiencies – Inadequate intake of vitamins and minerals, generally known as micronutrients, can also be categorized. Enzymes, hormones, and other compounds necessary for healthy growth and development can be produced by the body with the help of micronutrients.
Photo from Pexels
Obese or overweight
When a person is obese or overweight, their weight exceeds that of their height. Health can be harmed by abnormal or excessive fat storage.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of weight for height that is frequently used to categorize individuals as overweight or obese. It is determined by dividing the individual’s weight in kilograms by the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2). In adults, a BMI of 25 or above is considered overweight, but a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. An imbalance between energy exerted and energy ingested leads to overweight and obesity (too little).
According to WHO, globally, people are eating and drinking more calorie-dense foods and beverages (rich in sweets and fats) and exercising less.
Diet-related noncommunicable diseases
Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) that are influenced by diet include diabetes, some malignancies, and cardiovascular disorders (such as heart attacks and stroke, which are frequently connected to high blood pressure). Poor nutrition and unhealthy diets are among the main risk factors for chronic illnesses worldwide.
Effects of malnutrition
As parents, it is important that we keep track of our children’s weight, to monitor their health.
How can malnutrition affect the lives of children? Here are some of the effects of malnutrition in children:
- Having short- or long-term problems with their health that may lead to complications.
- Slow recovery of their body from wounds and other illnesses.
- Higher risk of developing an infection
- It affects their focus and it may be hard for them to study and do other activities.
- If your child has vitamin A deficiency, it may affect their sight or vision.
- Vitamin C deficiency weakens the immune system.
5 examples and signs of malnutrition in children
How can you know that your child is malnourished? If your child has a good appetite for junk food, can we say that there is malnutrition?
Just like what is said when we define what is malnutrition, it cannot be measured on the weight of the child and the shape of their body. Here are the signs that a kid is malnourished:
1. Slow growth and poor appetite
Each child is a unique individual, which means, they have different growth and development. As parents, you are the ones who can monitor the growth of your child. You can notice if they are growing or not. If it seems that they are not growing, it can be a sign of malnutrition.
You also need to observe how your child eats. If you notice that they have a poor appetite for healthy food but love to eat junk food, there is a possibility that your child is malnourished. As parents, we need to be more aware of how our kids eat.
2. Often experience abdominal pain
Your youngster can have trouble eating if they have tummy pain. If your child claims that they are unable to eat because they are ill, or if recurrent stomachaches and appetite loss occur, take them immediately away to the pediatrician.
3. Becomes lethargic and irritable or often has difficulty in school
A child’s nature is to be mischievous and energetic. To support their physical activities, such as playing, they need a lot of energy. Therefore, if your child suddenly starts to become lethargic, always weary, and irritable, it’s possible that they are not getting enough nutrition and therefore lacks the energy to be active.
Malnutrition in children can also manifest as irritability and moodiness.
The ability of our brain to work properly will be compromised if our bodies do not receive enough nutrition. Therefore, it becomes more challenging for malnourished youngsters to learn and focus on something.
Malnutrition is extremely dangerous for children under the age of two since it can interfere with their brain development. Malnutrition in children can also manifest as irritability and moodiness.
Photo from Pexels
4. Get sick more often
Why do children who are overweight and seem healthy frequently fall ill?
If a child consistently seems to have a cold or another viral infection, their immune system may be compromised due to malnutrition.
“Especially for children under two, the effects of chronic malnutrition can be lifelong. Those who survive may have reduced resistance to disease and infection later in life,” said Cathy Bergman, director of health nutrition and food systems of Mercy Corp, a non -government organization in America
5. There are oral problems
Does your child often have steam and dry lips? This can be a sign of malnutrition. Ani Julie Cunningham, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in North Carolina,
“Cracks that will not heal at the corners of a child’s mouth (or an adult’s) can indicate an iron or B vitamin deficiency (riboflavin).”
What should you do if your child is malnourished?
Photo from Pexels
Your child should be seen by a pediatrician right away to be tested and confirmed whether they are actually malnourished if you detect certain symptoms in them, such as delayed growth or weight loss in the last three months.
If your child has malnutrition, the doctor will identify the underlying cause and provide a treatment strategy. He may also suggest that you speak with a dietitian so that the child can have a healthy diet.
How to prevent malnutrition
There are also many ways how to prevent malnutrition.
Malnourished children are frequently advised to consume “fortified” foods high in calories and protein, add snacks in between their three meals, and drink calorie-dense beverages. Try these suggestions for additional advice:
1. The most effective way to combat malnutrition is to have a balanced diet
Your children’s meals can include the items listed below:
- lots of fruits and vegetables especially those rich in vitamins
- starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes, pasta
- milk and dairy products, as well as non-dairy alternatives such as yogurt
- protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and beans
Teach kids the value of eating healthfully so that they can maintain a healthy body. Do not give them junk food or beverages with added sugar. These foods don’t give the body any nutrition and can only make the youngster sicker in the long run.
2. Make it a habit for the child to drink a lot of water every day
Water can really help a lot, including preventing the child from getting malnourished.
3. Train the child to exercise
In addition to being beneficial for adults, exercise is also beneficial for children. It’s crucial that they are allowed space to exercise. Games and other physical activities are included in this.
4. Getting enough rest
Also, make sure the child has enough sleep and rest so they can restore energy.
5. Have good hygiene at home
Malnutrition can also be greatly avoided by maintaining a clean atmosphere. Teach your family the importance of excellent hygiene.
Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor any questions you may have about the health or malnutrition of your child.
Malnutrition and diarrhea
Dr. Yvonne Ferrer, the ASEAN Medical Head, in an interview with theAsianparent Philippines, reiterated how diarrhea and malnutrition are related.
According to a report due out in 2020, 30 million Filipinos are undernourished. Lack of nourishment is to blame for this. In actuality, poor nutrition causes 95 children to pass away each day.
While the child is underweight, diarrhea is more likely to occur. According to UNICEF, approximately 484,000 children under the age of five have diarrhea, added Dr. Ferrer. The most vulnerable age group to diarrhea in children under 5 years old.
“Malnutrition technically is defined as lack of nutrients due to poor diet or malabsorption. So, in poor diet that’s when the payat comes in…So ‘yong isa, marami kang kumain but your body cannot absorb it. That’s why there’s malabsorption due to certain conditions. Puwedeng kain ka nang kain, tumataba ka, pero hindi maganda ‘yong absorption kaya malnourished ka pa rin,” said Dr. Ferrer
“Obese and overweight, they are also malnourished. Kasi overnutrition, undernutrition, that’s malnutrition,”
Dr. Ferrer further mentioned that poverty-related food insecurity is the main contributor to malnutrition in the Philippines. A malnourished child is more susceptible to illness.
“And diarrhea can have many complications especially if not addressed early and it can even cause death. The most frightening thing about diarrhea is dehydration.“
The child’s growth and development are also impacted when his body lacks nutrition. When a youngster lacks essential nutrients, it also lacks a bright future. Food for the brain is also necessary.
Inadequate access to food, clean water, and hygiene are some of the causes of diarrhea, in addition to hunger.
It is important to strengthen the immunity of the child to combat diarrhea.
Probiotics vs diarrhea
According to Dr. Yvonne Ferrer, probiotics drink like Erceflora can help combat diarrhea.
“Probiotics is good bacteria. 1/3 of our weight is composed of good and bad bacteria. Natural residents yan ng body natin. Now there are conditions na pwedeng mabawasan ‘yong natural flora na tinatawag and one of this is diarrhea. Kasi mainly they reside in our gut,” said the Dr. Ferrer.
The doctor also said that children may take probiotics as early as 1 month old.
“Based on research maraming benefits ang probiotics. Not just to treat diarrhea and strengthen immunity, even cancer nakita na ang probiotics has benefits in preventing cancer. Even in cholesterol levels. So, probiotics is good to start early. Kasi it will help the kids in future life when they become adults. To prepare them to adulthood. And then also to prevent chronic diseases.”
Probiotics vs colic
Aside from the said health benefits of probiotics, Dr. Yvonne also mentioned that probiotics are also helpful in preventing colic in children. She said that bad bacteria produce gases that maybe the cause of colic. And having a sustained microflora may help avoid overgrowth of bad bacteria that may result to colic.
“There are also researchers about colic. Yung kabag na tinatawag. Bakit nagkakabag? Kasi ‘yong gas, accumulation of gas ‘yan e. Kasi minsan, ‘yong mga bad bacteria they produce gases. And sa research, yung good bacteria, they neutralized the negative effects ng bad bacteria. In some studies, nakita na may benefit din ang probiotics sa colic.”
Erceflora: Probiotic drink for your kid
A probiotic drink called Erceflora Kiddie was developed by Sanofi. Bacillus clausii spores are used to make it. a good example of bacteria that produces spores and balances the gut. Numerous gastrointestinal problems caused by gut imbalance can be treated and prevented with regular use of it (or by according to an HCP’s advise).
Bacillus clausii spores can survive the naturally acidic environment of the stomach and go to the intestinal tract. The four different strains of Bacillus clausii bacteria found in Erceflora products each have distinctive genes that confer antibiotic resistance.
While exhibiting symptoms of a gut issue, Erceflora’s products can be utilized to restore equilibrium to the intestines.
After Bacillus clausii reaches the colon, the possibility of an existing imbalance impacting your child’s daily life through symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and more is significantly decreased.
If you want to read the Filipino version of this article, click here.
Dito sa theAsianparent Philippines, mahalaga sa amin ang makapagbigay ng impormasyon na wasto, makabuluhan at napapanahon ngunit hindi ito dapat gawing pamalit sa payo ng doktor, o kaya sa medical treatment. Walang pinanghahawakang responsibilidad ang theAsianparent Philippines sa mga nagnanais na uminom ng gamot base sa impormasyon sa aming website. Kung mayroong agam-agam, ay nirerecomenda naming magpakonsulta sa doktor upang makakuha ng mas malinaw na impormasyon.
May katanungan tungkol sa pagpapalaki ng anak? Basahin ang mga artikulo o magtanong sa kapwa magulang sa aming app. I-download ang theAsianparent Community sa iOS o Android!