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Spotting and treating malnutrition

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Problems associated with obesity and diabetes are well-publicised in the media, ensuring that people have some knowledge of their incidence and risk, but what percentage of the public are aware of the presence of malnutrition in the UK?

A popular misconception is that malnutrition is largely a problem for those in poorer countries. However, older people are particularly at risk. Malnutrition is a significant and neglected public health problem affecting over 10 per cent (approximately one million) of people over the age of 65.1 Disease-related malnutrition affects over three million adults in the UK with associated health costs in excess of £13 billion per annum.2 Most people at risk of malnutrition (93 per cent) are in the community.2

Definition of malnutrition

There is no universal definition of malnutrition. It has been defined as 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.3

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