Malnutrition is serious health condition in Australia, but it continues to be unrecognised and therefore, untreated. In Australia today, malnutrition affects approximately 10 – 30% of people living in the community, with the prevalence being higher in older people and people with certain diseases such as cancer.1 It is also estimated to affect 35-43% of patients in hospital and in an Australian study, the prevalence across eight residential aged care facilities ranged from 32-72%.2
What is Malnutrition?
Put simply, malnutrition occurs when a person’s diet does not provide enough, or the right balance, of nutrients for optimal health. It can also occur when a person gets too much or too little of certain nutrients and can refer to over or under nutrition.
Malnutrition is increasingly called the “silent epidemic” because it can go unnoticed and undiagnosed. This is especially the case outside of an environment where healthcare professionals are regularly monitoring someone’s health and what they’re consuming. Overall, only 1 in 6 people think they themselves, a family member or a loved one, living in Australia is at risk of malnutrition. That’s 83% who don’t think they’re at risk, a statistic which may explain why diagnosis rates are so low.3
Signs of Malnutrition
New consumer research shows that most people think being underweight is the leading malnutrition symptom.3 But the signs of malnutrition are many and varied, and it’s important to know what they are. Surprisingly, malnutrition is not just related to the numbers on the scales. People with malnutrition can be both underweight or overweight. That’s because the food they eat and drink can provide them with energy, yet they can still be lacking in the essential nutrients their body needs.
Common signs other than weight loss can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A reduced appetite, with a lack of interest in food and drink in general
- The inability to focus and concentrate
- Feeling tired all the time, even when sedentary
- A general feeling of being weaker than usual
- Getting sick often and taking a longer time to recover
If you think that you or someone you know could be at risk of malnutrition when considering the common signs, take our malnutrition quiz to find out more. Remember, malnutrition can be avoidable. Know the signs, so you, and those around you, stay healthy and well.
What You Can Do?
There is some good news – malnutrition is a health condition that can be treated and prevented. An increase in intake of essential nutrients like protein, vitamins and minerals, fibre and fluids will be included in a malnutrition treatment plan to help you restore your nutritional balance.
Daily nutritional support, such as an oral nutritional supplement is also often recommended to ensure essential nutrients for good health are consumed consistently. There are easy to drink, convenient liquid formats available that help to provide a quick and easy way to help restore nutritional balance when someone’s usual diet isn’t enough. To learn more request a FREE information pack.
If you think that you or someone you know, could be malnourished, it’s always best to speak to your healthcare professional first. This could be your local doctor, nurse, or registered dietitian. They are best placed to assess you and provide you with an official diagnosis and advise on the best treatment for your particular health situation.
- Dietitians Association of Australia. Evidence based practice guidelines for the management of malnutrition in adult patients across the continuum of care. Nutr Diet. 2009; 66 (3): S1-S34.
- Is malnutrition an issue in Australia? https://dietitiansaustralia.org.au/smart-eating-for-you/smart-eating-fast-facts/medical/is-malnutrition-an-issue-in-australia. Accessed July 2020.
- The Digital Edge Weekly Omnibus Survey conducted amongst 1,500 Australians in February 2021. Data on file.