Poor dietary intake is referred to as malnutrition. This could be due to either an excessive or insufficient intake of nutrients (overnutrition or undernutrition). When a person consumes fewer calories of energy than they require over an extended period of time, undernutrition results. A well-liked indication of undernutrition is the body mass index (BMI). By dividing the body weight in kilos by the square of the body height (in meters), one can calculate a person’s weight in relation to their height. A person is deemed malnourished if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is 18.5 or lower.
The BMI method for diagnosing malnutrition is undoubtedly highly helpful, but it also has certain limitations, particularly when several people need to be assessed at once. It takes time to weigh and measure many people. Scales and measuring tapes must also be accessible, preferably in multiples, and staff members must be properly trained.
Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tape diagnosis
Using a basic coloured plastic tape, MUAC is currently a quick and easy approach to identify whether a kid is malnourished.
The MUAC test can be conducted on kids from 12 months old to 59 months old, but it can also be used to identify malnutrition in kids older than 6 months with lengths more than 65 cm. The majority of MUAC tapes feature three coloured zones that can be used to assess a child’s nutritional status.
The measuring device is positioned between the elbows:
The green zone (12cm to 21cm) indicates that the child is receiving the recommended amount of nutrition.
The yellow zone (11 cm to 12.5 cm) indicates that a child is at risk of malnutrition.
A measurement in the red zone (below 11 cm) indicates severe undernourishment in the child.
Presently, a version of the bracelet designed for teenagers and adults is under development.
Child malnutrition’s harmful effects on health
The size of underweight children is frequently inappropriate for their age. Individuals exhibit a variety of other signs as well, including fatigue, apathy, and weakness. There is frequently poor intellectual development, diminished muscle mass, and delayed mental growth.
Marasmus is one type of childhood malnutrition. Children who don’t consume enough protein, calories, carbohydrates, and other crucial nutrients experience this. Another severe form of malnutrition is kwashiorkor. The name derives from the Ga language of Ghana and roughly translates to “the sickness the baby suffers when the new baby comes.” Kwashiorkor results in a fluid buildup in the body that can make the face swollen and the belly swollen. Water retention in the abdominal cavity and a significantly enlarged liver are to blame for the abdomen’s bulge. Those with a severe protein shortage develop kwashiorkor. In comparison to children who acquire marasmus, those who develop kwashiorkor are frequently older. A diet heavy in carbs might result in this condition.
Every system in the body is impacted by malnutrition, which inevitably leads to a higher risk of complications, death, and increased susceptibility to diseases like tuberculosis.
Fighting malnutrition with peanut paste: Plumpy’Nut
If a child’s MUAC test results are in the yellow range or if they are underweight (70–80% of their normal weight), they are considered to be “slightly malnourished.” Such a child will require treatment with nutritional supplements high in calories and vitamins.
The Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a peanut-based paste that treats nutritional deficiencies in children, especially those with severe acute malnutrition, has been used to treat children with acute malnutrition for years in clinics. However, today, a simple innovation in a plastic sachet is saving the lives of millions of children. Plumpy’Nut is the most well-known RUTF.
The paste is fortified with vitamins and minerals and comprises sugar, vegetable oil, and skimmed milk powder. Little kids may readily consume it, and it doesn’t require mixing with water, which is frequently in short supply in drought-affected areas. It is also reasonably priced.