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How to combat malnutrition: Britain’s lesser known epidemic

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Malnutrition has been estimated by BAPEN to affect Malnutrition has been estimated by BAPEN to affect over three million people in the UK

There has been a lot of focus on obesity throughout the pandemic, and while it is right to bring the link between obesity and poorer outcomes fromCOVID-19 to the surface, we mustn’t forget those that are at the other end of the spectrum in the UK.By this, we mean those adults who are undernourished, or at risk of becoming so.

Malnutrition is more likely to occur in those who are immune-compromised, and those who are malnourished can have a weakened immune system.1Therefore, immune dysfunction is both a ‘cause’ and a ‘consequence’ of malnutrition.

What is malnutrition?

The British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN) is a charitable organisation that includes raising the awareness of malnutrition among its fundamental objectives. Together, BAPEN members have come up with the following definition of malnutrition:

‘Malnutrition is a state of nutrition in which a deficiency or excess (or imbalance) of energy, protein and other nutrients causes measurable adverse effects on tissue / body form (body shape, size and composition) and function and clinical outcome’

BAPEN does state that the term malnutrition does include obesity, however, the organisation is focussed on the problem of ‘undernutrition’, which is commonly termed ‘malnutrition’.


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