Protein-energy malnutrition is a global issue affecting many countries including Nigeria, with a decrease worldwide, but rates vary by region. The human body is a powerhouse on its own, and it needs to be fueled daily with all the right essential nutrients it requires to function properly, ranging from carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. Any nutrient deficiency can cause harm to a baby, growing child or an adult, leading to ill health and malnutrition. Inadequate food intake is the common cause of malnutrition globally.

Protein-energy malnutrition 

Protein-energy malnutrition is a type of malnourishment that affects babies, growing children and adults over a long period of time, when they do not consume enough proteins and calories needed by the body to function well.

 A data from (2016) indicate that severe acute malnutrition including kwashiorkor and marasmus affects more than 18 million children each year, most living in low-income settings. According to 2018 World Health Organization data, 52 million children younger than 5 years are wasted (low weight-for-height), 17 million are severely wasted, and 155 million are stunted (low height-for-age).

 In some studies, the protein-energy malnutrition prevalence among elderly persons is estimated to be as high as 4% for those living in the community, 50% for those hospitalized in acute care units or geriatric rehabilitation units, and 30-40% for those in long-term care facilities.

Marasmus

Marasmus is a severe form of protein-energy malnutrition. It occurs over a long period of time when an individual does not consume enough calorie to fuel the body daily. As a result, the body draws on its own stores, resulting in emaciation. This severe form of protein-energy malnutrition can happen to an adult or a child due to an eating disorder, loss of appetite, poverty, shortage of food (famine), not being able to absorb nutrients, or due to excessive alcohol consumption. Marasmus often affect babies, young children and adults. It leads to excessive weight loss and dehydration, leading to starvation. 

The symptoms of marasmus includes:

(1) Dehydration.

(2) Excessive weight loss.

(3) Stomach shrinkage.

(4)  Chronic diarrhea.

(5) Dry skin.

(6) Thin hair.

(7) Low weight.

Anyone living in a war zone or an area where it is difficult to get food, is at risk for marasmus. Babies who are not breast fed for a certain reason, young children and elderly people are also prone to having marasmus. 

Seeking medical help soon from a professional who specializes in this kind of malnutrition can safe the life of anyone suffering from marasmus, because this condition is severe and can lead to death if left untreated.

Marasmus can be treated by slowly introducing calorie rich whole foods like grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. Doctors also advice the use of multivitamins and appetite boosting supplements for marasmus patients.

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