Causes of Malnutrition

Malnutrition occurs when an individual’s nutrient intake fails to meet their nutrient demand. This mismatch is the result of an extremely complex range of interconnected causes that either decrease nutrient intake or increase nutrient requirements. Children can be prevented from obtaining the nutrients they need by poverty – limiting access to the right types and/or quantity of food – illness that decreases nutrient intake or ineffective feeding practices. Nutrient requirements increase due to infection, fever and immune dysfunction, which are in turn often the result of poverty, poor living conditions, poor hygiene practice, lack of access to health care and poor water and/or sanitation.

The underlying themes to this complexity of causes are distinct: poverty and a lack of access to adequate nutritious foods and research data indicates that in many communities worldwide, a large proportion of the poor cannot afford to access the nutrients that their children need from the foods currently available in their local shops and markets (Save the Children UK, 2009).