British Dietetic Association    Mind the Hunger Gap  

Signs of Malnutrition

The BDA is about to launch new information and resources for those worried about malnutrition.  In the meantime you may find this useful.

Malnutrition is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet does not contain enough nutrients to meet the demands of their body.

This can affect growth, physical health, mood, behaviour and many of the functions of the body. You can also become malnourished if your diet does not contain the right balance of nutrients.

It is possible to eat a diet high in calories but containing few vitamins and minerals. This means you can become malnourished, even though you might also be overweight or obese. Being malnourished does not always mean that you are skinny.

Symptoms of malnutrition

The most common symptom of malnutrition is unplanned weight loss. If you lose 10% of your body weight in the course of three months and are not dieting it could be a sign that you are malnourished.
Other symptoms include:

Things to look out for in children include:

When to see your GP?

If your BMI is lower than 18.5 or you experience the symptoms listed above it is recommended that you see your GP.


The main treatment option for somebody who is able to eat normally is to provide food that has an extra nutrient content, such as high-protein snack bars.
In cases where people are unable to eat there are two main treatment options:

Who is affected?

Malnutrition is a common health problem. A study carried out in 2009 found that there were 2 million people who were malnourished in the UK and a further 3 million people who were at risk of becoming malnourished.

Around one in four people who are admitted to hospital in the UK are found to be malnourished.

High risk groups include:

Older people may become malnourished gradually if poor health begins to affect their ability to feed themselves properly. Malnutrition then, in turn, makes their health worse.


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