Often children from affluent families desist from eating regular meals and prefer to eat snacks at odd times. Due to this untimely eating they are not hungry at meal times and there is complaint of the mothers that the child does not eat a proper meal. The child generally gets adequate calories and nutrients from whatever he eats throughout the day. There should be no reason to worry if the development of the child is normal. A thin and active child is better than a chubby and lethargic child. If the child is developing well there should be no reason to worry for the mothers. The point of worry about the malnutrition of the child should be if the doctor tells you that the child is undernourished and less developed as compared to the children of his age.
Hunger and malnutrition, though used together for some children, have different meanings. Hunger is a signal generated by the brain that food is needed and the stomach is empty. Once we eat food and the stomach is full, there will be no signal of hunger and wanting to eat something. In contrast, malnutrition is not like hunger. There is no direct signal to the human brain about malnutrition. However consequential effects may be an indicator. A child or an adult person may be eating enough food but may suffer from malnutrition.
A child suffering from malnutrition is more likely to get sick as compared to other children living under the same conditions. Malnutrition is a major cause of child mortality throughout the underdeveloped world. As per UN estimates more than one billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition. If one happens to watch TV clips of people living in parts of Africa you will understand the meaning of hunger and malnutrition.
Lack of healthy foods: When a child is born he needs adequate quantity of food with nutrients for him to grow and develop properly. Due to non availability of adequate quantity of nutritious food to the child he lacks development. In certain cases the child gets food to fulfil his hunger but the food has no nutritional value, again resulting in malnutrition. Inadequate quantity of food made available to a child results in malnutrition but making available adequate quantity of food which is not balanced does not mean that there will be no malnutrition.
Medical reasons: It is also possible that though the child is getting adequate nutrition, he may be suffering from malnutrition. This could be due to some medical reason. These type of cases need to be properly investigated by medical experts. A child might be suffering from a disease called celiac which is an intestinal problem which is triggered by protein called gluten found in wheat and barley. Similarly the body of a child suffering from cystic fibrosis finds it difficult to absorb nutrients as the pancreas get affected by this disease. A child may suffer from malnutrition due to being lactose intolerant. Such a child is unable to digest milk which is a major source of calcium and other minerals in majority of cases. Deficiency of iron is another form of malnutrition worldwide. This deficiency results in an anaemic child whose regular growth and development is hindered.
Malnutrition during pregnancy of a lady has an adverse impact on the proper development of the foetus. The child born to such a woman may be underweight and in worst cases may have lesser chances of survival. Malnutrition of women during pregnancy is a major reason of child mortality in the underdeveloped world. Different deficiencies result in different birth defects.
Malnutrition of any kind hinders the normal growth and development of both body and mind of the kid. The deficiency of a particular nutrient has a different effect on a particular part of the body. Some of the symptoms of malnutrition are fatigue and feeling of tiredness, improper development of immune system resulting in frequent sickness, dry skin, bleeding gums and unhealthy teeth, muscular weakness and improper growth reflected by the kid being underweight and short in size as compared to the parents and other people of the community. In case of inadequate availability of calcium the child may suffer from fragile bones. Learning deficiency is a major symptom of malnutrition.
In case of affluent families it is easy to treat malnutrition in kids. With all the medical advice available and healthy food substitutes the child will be normal soon, the only thing being that he will need adequate attention. In case of children suffering from malnutrition due to poverty precautions need to be taken by parents. It is not that only high priced food is nutritious. Balanced food should be given to the child to ensure proper development.