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Under-nutrition is commonly associated with undeveloped countries, but can also occur in developed countries due to an unbalanced diet. Under-nutrition is usually thought of as a deficiency primarily of calories or of protein. This type of malnutrition can occur when people are not eating enough food, or when the food they are eating does not contain well-balanced nutrients. The World Health Organization estimates that one out of every three people is suffering from a deficiency in one or more essential nutrients.

Under-nutrition is most common in low-income, developing countries and is prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia, where access to a well-balanced diet is very limited. Most people in these poor countries survive on diets that include low amounts of protein, high amounts of carbohydrates and are mainly vegetarian, with wheat, rice and corn as large staples in the diet.

In the next part of this subject, we are going to cover disorders relating to under-nutrition. Please listen carefully as there are many disorders that contribute to under-nutrition.

In no particular order, I will start by explaining the signs and symptoms of ‘Anaemia’ which will be followed by ‘Scurvy’. Anaemia is a lack of iron in the body. Iron is a substance that carries oxygen from the lungs around the body to increase haemoglobin. There needs to be a regular supply of dietary iron due to red blood cells lasting for only 120 days. If you have failed to increase your iron levels, you will feel tired and listlessness.

Scurvy is another common disorder which is subject to a lack of vitamin C and is caused due to a break down in blood vessels, which will cause the joints to bleed. One example you may consider is that of an elderly person who may be more prone to bruising, due to a lack of vitamin C.

Another disorder relating to under-nutrition is Beriberi, which is sometimes seen in the UK in alcoholics whose diet is predominated by alcohol and little other foods. This is due to a lack of vitamin B.

Anorexia is the most obvious to visually see because this will cause weight loss. Anorexia is a psychological eating disorder which will cause the sufferer to refuse food, especially high-calorie foods. Physiological treatment is often recommended.

And finally, diverticular disease is a disorder due to a lack of fluid and fibre in the diet. This is a condition in which muscle spasm in the colon (lower intestine) in the presence of diverticula causes abdominal pain and disturbance of bowel function without inflammation.

Under-nutrition, even when treated, may have long-lasting effects in children. Impairments in intellectual ability and digestive problems may persist, sometimes throughout life. With treatment, most adults recover fully.