Our grateful thanks to the six dietitians from across the UK who contributed to our on-air radio report which you can hear again via the audio player further down this page. Our grateful thanks also to NHS Direct for the use of the support information below.
Malnutrition, NHS Direct tells us, is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet doesn't contain the right amount of nutrients. It means "poor nutrition" and can refer to:
As you heard 'on-air' the focus of our radio report and the information on this page relates to disease related malnutrition.
Malnutrition is a common problem, 3 million people across the UK are living with it or at risk of it. Anyone can be affected, but it's more common in:
Your GP can check if you're at risk of malnutrition by measuring your weight and height, ask about any medical problems you have, and about recent changes in your weight or appetite.
If they think you could be malnourished, they may refer you to a healthcare professional such as a dietitian to discuss treatment.
The Clinical Consequences of Malnutrition (according to the Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community Panel) are:
The Common Signs of Malnutrition, NHS Direct tell us, include:
When to see your GP:
Treatments for malnutrition depend on the underlying cause and how malnourished the person is. They may be given advice, to follow at home, or they may be supported at home by a dietitian or other qualified healthcare professional. In severe cases, treatment in hospital may be needed.
Dietary changes and supplements. A dietitian will advise about dietary changes that can help. They may create a tailored diet plan that ensures the person gets enough nutrients. They may also suggest:
Some people also need support to help with underlying issues such as limited mobility – for example, care at home or occupational therapy. If a child is malnourished, their family may need advice and support to address the underlying reasons why this may have happened.
If these initial dietary changes aren't enough, a doctor, nurse or dietitian may also suggest taking extra nutrients in the form of nutritional drinks or supplements. If the person has difficulty eating that can't be managed by making changes such as eating soft or liquid food, other treatments may be recommended.
Preventing malnutrition. The best way to prevent malnutrition is to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
You need to eat a variety of foods from the main food groups, including:
See the NHS Direct Eatwell Guide for more information about the types of food that should make up your diet and the proportions you should eat them in.
Cost Implications of Malnutrition. According to the Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community Panel, the healthcare cost of managing individuals with malnutrition is more than twice that of managing non-malnourished individuals, due to higher use of healthcare resources.
Listen to this weeks radio report
All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.