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Main Causes of Disease-Related Malnutrition

Malnutrition Frequency Caused by Various and Diverse Factors

Reduced food and nutrient intake due to disability and disease are the key reasons for disease-related malnutrition. In addition, other factors can cause and exacerbate disease-related malnutrition such as:123

  • Patient-related conditions
  • Organizational conditions
  • Health care staff-related conditions

Each of these factors can result in a lack of sufficient energy and nutrient intake by the patient.1

Patient-Related Conditions: When Food Intake is Insufficient

Some patients might not eat the recommended amount of food or nutrients due to various reasons leading to malnutrition:4

  • Anorexia, taste disturbances, nausea, vomiting, chewing and swallowing difficulties, confusion, depression, medication, treatment-induced side effects such as from chemotherapy or surgical intervention
  • An inability to self-feed or the impact of poor dental health

Patients may consume adequate nutrients and still lose weight for reasons including:4

  • Impaired nutrient digestion and absorption, particularly in gastrointestinal (GI) diseases
  • Increased nutritional requirements resulting from sepsis, trauma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), endocrine disease or cancer
  • Increased weight losses resulting from enhanced catabolism, malabsorption, intestinal (fistula) or wound discharge

Other Factors: Staff and Organizational Influences on Disease-Related Malnutrition

Beyond patient-related conditions, malnutrition can also be impacted by health care staff or organizational factors which fail to sufficiently address the problem.

Staff-related issues often include lack of education and training on identifying and treating disease-related malnutrition,23 poor documentation, insufficient screening procedures, treatment actions, and follow-up monitoring. On the organizational side, lack of nutrition policy, poor organization of nutrition services, catering limitations and lack of specialist posts can contribute to disease-related malnutrition.1