How Malnutrition Affects Australians

 

Malnutrition is a serious problem that affects many Australians.

It occurs when the body doesn't receive the nutrients it needs to function properly and if this occurs over a prolonged period, it can lead to a range of health problems.

These include poor immune function, slow wound healing and muscle weakness. It can also have negative effects on mental health, causing mood swings, depression, and cognitive decline.

While malnutrition affects people of all ages and backgrounds, it is particularly prevalent among older adults, as well as those with chronic illnesses and who live in poverty.

In this article, we will delve deeper into what malnutrition is to provide you with a better understanding of why it is caused. We will also evaluate what can be done to keep it at bay.

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough nutrients, such as those derived from vitamins, minerals and proteins.

Typically, it can manifest in two different forms - undernutrition and overnutrition. While undernutrition is more commonly associated with developing countries, it can affect people in developed countries like Australia.

Undernutrition occurs when the body does not receive enough calories or essential nutrients to function correctly. Overnutrition, on the other hand, is when the body receives an excess of nutrients and can lead to obesity and other related health issues.

In Australia, malnutrition is a growing concern, and it is estimated that around 2 million Australians are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. This condition can affect people of all ages, but it is particularly prevalent in older adults, who may have difficulty obtaining and consuming nutrient-dense foods.

Children and adolescents are also at risk of malnutrition, particularly if they consume a diet that is high in processed foods and low in essential nutrients.

What causes malnutrition?

One of the main causes of malnutrition in Australia is poverty. People who live in poverty are more likely to experience food insecurity and have limited access to nutritious foods.

Such circumstances can lead to them adopting a diet that is high in processed foods and low in essential nutrients. In addition, poverty can also limit access to healthcare, which can exacerbate existing health problems and increase the risk of malnutrition.

Another significant cause of malnutrition in Australia is age-related factors. As people age, their ability to absorb and utilise nutrients decreases. Older adults may also have difficulty chewing or swallowing. So, this could make it a challenge for them to consume nutrient-dense foods. In addition, older adults may experience social isolation, which can affect their ability to access food and prepare meals.

Malnutrition can also be caused by underlying health conditions. People with digestive disorders, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, may have difficulty absorbing nutrients from their food. 

It can lead to malnutrition, even if they are consuming a diet that is rich in essential nutrients. Similarly, people with certain chronic illnesses, such as cancer or HIV, may require additional nutrients to support their immune system and overall health.

What are the effects of malnutrition?

The effects of malnutrition can be severe and can lead to a range of health problems.

These include an increased risk of infections, delayed wound healing, poor cognitive function, and a weakened immune system.

Malnutrition can also increase the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

In addition to the physical effects, malnutrition can also have a significant impact on mental health. People who are malnourished may experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Malnutrition can also lead to social isolation, which can further exacerbate these problems.

How to treat malnutrition

The treatment of malnutrition depends on the underlying cause. But in many cases, improving nutrition through dietary changes is an effective way to treat it.

This may involve working with a registered dietitian or nutritionist to develop a personalised plan that is rich in essential nutrients.

It usually involves drinking plenty of water and consuming a balanced and healthy diet that includes several different fruits and vegetables, as well as lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains.

It also requires cutting out sugary drinks and avoiding processed foods, as well as those that are high in added sugars and unhealthy fats.

What are nutrition supplements?

While malnutrition is a rising issue in Australia, fortunately, there are ways to combat it and improve your overall health.

One such way is through the use of nutritional supplements like Nutricia. These supplements can help provide the essential nutrients that may be missing from a person's diet, leading to improved health outcomes.

Nutrition supplements can come in many forms, including powders, capsules, and liquids. They may contain vitamins, minerals, protein, or other essential nutrients.

It is important to note that they are designed to be taken alongside a balanced diet rather than as a replacement for healthy eating habits.

Benefits of nutritional supplements 

Nutrition supplements can be very beneficial to those who are malnourished, especially older adults.

As we age, our bodies may become less efficient at absorbing nutrients from food. This can lead to deficiencies that can impact overall health. Therefore, taking a nutrition supplement, as an older Australian, can help ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy.

Nutrition supplements can also be helpful for those with chronic illnesses or medical conditions. Certain conditions may require a person to limit or avoid certain foods, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. In these cases, a nutrition supplement can help provide the missing nutrients.

Conclusion

Malnutrition is a significant public health issue in Australia that can affect individuals of all ages. 

While improving nutrition through dietary changes is an effective way to treat malnutrition, medical treatment and specialised nutritional support may be necessary for individuals with underlying health conditions.

Preventing malnutrition requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the social determinants of health, promotes access to healthy foods and healthcare, and supports healthy eating habits.

By addressing malnutrition, we can improve the health and well-being of individuals and communities across Australia.

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