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Malnutrition is a broad term which refers to both undernutrition (subnutrition) and overnutrition. Individuals are malnourished, or suffer from undernutrition if their diet does not provide them with adequate calories and protein for maintenance and growth, or they cannot fully utilize the food they eat due to illness. People are also malnourished, or suffer from overnutrition if they consume too many calories.
Malnutrition can also be defined as the insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients. Several different nutrition disorders may develop, depending on which nutrients are lacking or consumed in excess.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition is the gravest single threat to global public health.
While malnutrition used to be seen as something which complicated such diseases as measles, pneumonia and diarrhea, it often works the other way round - malnutrition can cause diseases to occur.
Globally, as well as in developed, industrialized countries, the following groups of people are at highest risk of malnutrition (subnutrition):
* Elderly people, especially those who are hospitalized or in long-term institutional care
* Individuals who are socially isolated People on low incomes (poor people)
* People with chronic eating disorders, such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa
* People convalescing after a serious illness or condition