Undernutrition vs Malnutrition


There are certain issues in nutrition that could adversely affect the health. Such issues include undernutrition, over nutrition, and other forms of nutrient intake imbalance. So, the excess, deficiency and unbalanced intake of nutrient can each upset the equilibrium of the body and its ability to flourish and grow differently.

However, undernutrition and malnutrition have several differences which can likewise affect the health of the human body. Here are some of the differences between undernutrition vs malnutrition.


The manifestation of malnutrition will include hunger, which constitute vitamins and minerals deficiency or overfeeding. According to the Nutrition Ecology International Center, half of the population of the world has been suffering from hunger. In fact, half of the adults in the U.S. have been classified as obese or overweight. This has been defined with the body mass index of 25 or larger.

Likewise, there are also out-of-balance nutrients that would contribute to the body’s malnutrition problems. For instance, too little intake of Vitamin A will eventually cause blindness, while too much of it can damage the cells. Too much iron can result to death or poisoning, while too little can result to anemia. At the same time, too much protein intake can result to health risks, while too little can devastate the health of the body.


Protein-energy undernutrition has been previously referred to as protein-energy malnutrition. This results when people will be deprived of energy or protein or both. This condition can strike early in childhood, which is also the most dominant, disturbing form of malnutrition around the world. Undernutrition has affected 500 million children worldwide. Children with inadequate food intake can result to weight loss and poor growth.

Two distinct forms of protein-energy undernutrition include kwashiorkor and marasmus.

Kwashiorkor is a form of protein-energy undernutrition that should result from the sudden and recent food deprivation. Children with kwashiorkor typically show some swollen abdomen. This is due to the enlarged liver and the loss of fluid balance that should allow the leak of fluids into different spaces between the cells. This will cause the appearance of the belly to swell displaying a frame of swelling in the face and limbs or muscle wasting. Other indications include the loss of hair color, infectious disease, and patchy or scaly skin. Other symptoms include the slow healing of sores.

Meanwhile, marasmus is the severe deprivation of food that incur offer a certain period of time. This has been caused by inadequate protein, energy, minerals and vitamins. This condition could result to extreme muscle and fat loss. Marasmus children often have the appearance of just skin and bones. So, without sufficient intake of nutrients, the muscles of the heart will waste away, while the function and development of the brain will falter.

Major Differences

  • Malnutrition results to goiter, scurvy and some diseases, while undernutrition results to starvation that can be observed in some poor countries with higher populations.
  • Malnutrition can result from excess, deficiency, and imbalance of nutrients in the body, while undernutrition only refers to the deficiency of nutrient intake.
  • Malnutrition may include digestion or absorption problems, whereas undernutrition may refer to people not having enough food intake.