PT Health Life

Diet for malnourished people

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PT Health Life – Malnutrition often occurs when the body does not receive enough food, the amount or balance of nutrients needed for the body to function normally. A diet supplemented with nutrients is very important to improve physical condition and prevent the risks of prolonged malnutrition.

1. Types of malnutrition

Malnutrition is an imbalance between the nutrients the body needs to function and the nutrients the body receives. It can mean undernutrition or overnutrition.

A person can be malnourished due to an overall lack or excess of calories, or be deficient in protein, vitamins, minerals, etc., causing an imbalance in macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fat) or micronutrients ( vitamins and minerals).

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently added overnutrition to its definition of malnutrition to recognize the adverse health effects that can result from overconsumption of nutrients. This includes the effects of overweight and obesity, which are closely related to the list of non-communicable diseases. It also includes toxicity that can result from overdose of specific micronutrients.

Elderly people are at risk of malnutrition because their diet does not provide enough nutrients. Illustration.

There are 4 types of malnutrition

1.1 Macronutrition

Also known as protein-energy malnutrition, this is a deficiency in the macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Macronutrients are the main components of your diet, the nutrients your body relies on to produce energy to sustain you. Without them – or even just one of them – your body will soon begin to break down, breaking down tissues and shutting down unnecessary functions to conserve low energy.

1.2 Micronutrient malnutrition

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals. Your body needs these in smaller amounts, but it needs them for all kinds of functions. Many people are mildly deficient in certain vitamins and minerals due to a lack of dietary diversity. You may not notice a mild vitamin deficiency affecting you, but as micronutrient deficiency becomes more severe, it can begin to cause serious and long-lasting effects.

Excess macronutrients

When your body has excess protein, carbohydrate and/or fat calories to use, it stores them as fat cells in adipose tissue. But when your body has no more tissue to store, fat cells have to grow.

Hypertrophied fat cells are associated with chronic inflammation and a variety of subsequent metabolic disorders. These can lead to non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and stroke.

1.3 Excess micronutrients

You can actually overdose on vitamin and mineral supplements. More research is needed to explain how this happens and how much of a certain vitamin or mineral is too much. In general, micronutrient excess is uncommon and does not occur solely due to diet. But if you take large doses of certain supplements, it can cause toxic effects.

2. The importance of diet for malnourished people

Anyone can become malnourished, but the condition is more common in people with long-term health conditions that affect appetite, weight and/or how well nutrients are absorbed through the intestines, such as Crohn’s disease, people recovering from trauma or severe burns…

Malnutrition is treatable, but some have lasting effects. The effects of severe malnutrition, such as blindness due to vitamin A deficiency, soft bones due to vitamin D deficiency , and stunted growth due to protein-energy malnutrition in children may be irreversible. even after rehabilitation. Side effects of long-term overnutrition, such as insulin resistance and carotid artery disease, can persist even after weight loss. However, with early intervention and good follow-up support, people can make a full recovery.

The best way to prevent malnutrition is to eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from the major food groups.

the goal of the diet for malnourished people is to:

  • Restores nutritional status, promotes compensatory growth.
  • Restore and develop motor and psychological functions.
  • Enhance resistance.

Principles when building rations:

  • Increase dietary energy by increasing the energy density of the dish.
  • Supplement essential vitamins and minerals.

For people with malnutrition, diet plays an extremely important role, directly affecting the recovery process and improving health. As follows:

Provides complete essential nutrients

Malnutrition is a condition in which the body lacks nutrients necessary for life activities. Therefore, building a nutritious diet plays a key role in compensating for this deficiency.

The diet needs to ensure that it provides enough water, protein, calories, vitamins and minerals for the body. Thanks to that, it helps malnourished people strengthen the immune system, restore body functions, improve weakness, and promote growth.

Strengthen resistance

Malnutrition makes the body susceptible to infections and other diseases. A nutritious diet will help strengthen the immune system and increase resistance, thereby helping patients fight diseases more effectively.

Support the treatment process

Nutrition plays an important role in supporting the treatment of underlying diseases causing malnutrition. A suitable diet will help improve treatment effectiveness, shorten recovery time and reduce the risk of complications.

Promote growth

For malnourished children, a nutritious diet will help promote physical and intellectual development. Children will have enough conditions to grow in height, weight and brain development normally.

Improve quality of life

When provided with adequate nutrition, malnourished people will feel healthier, full of energy and can actively participate in social activities. This contributes to improving their quality of life.

3. Important groups of essential nutrients for people with malnutrition

Studies show that some of the most effective ways to address and prevent malnutrition include vitamin and mineral supplements, food supplements, and providing nutrition education to people at high risk. The best way to prevent malnutrition is to eat a balanced diet with a variety of nutrient-rich whole foods.

Nutritious foods that contain enough carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals can help prevent malnutrition. Promoting healthy eating habits and encouraging regular physical activity for both children and adults can help avoid excessive malnutrition in those at risk.

Treatment of malnutrition depends on the individual’s general health and level of malnutrition. Nutrition experts often advise ensuring your diet has enough energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, and eating small, frequent meals to get plenty of nutrients.

3.1. Carbohydrates (Gluxide/carbohydrates)

Providing energy, the most important function, accounting for 60-65% of total dietary energy, 1g Carbohydrate provides 4 kcal of energy.

  • Makes up cells and tissues.
  • Supports the development of children’s brain and nervous system.
  • Regulates body activities.
  • Provides essential fiber.
  • Found in cereals and tubers: rice, noodles, bread, macaroni, vermicelli, vermicelli, sweet potatoes, taro, sugar, corn, boron, fruits…

3.2. Fat (Lipid)

Providing energy in its most concentrated form, 1g of fat provides 9 Kcal of energy.

  • Energy reserve (fat tissue).
  • Helps absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, K.
  • Helps the development of brain cells and the nervous system.
  • Found in oils, fats, butter…

3.3. Protein (Protid)

Protein is important for the body’s cell building activities.
  • It is a raw material for building body cells, muscles, bones, teeth…
  • Ingredients to create digestive juices, enzymes, and hormones in the body help regulate the body’s activities, ingredients to create antibodies to help the body fight diseases.
  • Transport nutrients.
  • Regulates water balance.
  • Provides energy: 1g of protein provides 4 Kcal of energy. Found in meat, fish, eggs, milk, shrimp, crab, green beans, black beans, red beans, soybeans, tofu…

3.4. Some essential vitamins and minerals

Refer to the vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. Vitamin supplementation must be based on a doctor’s examination and specific instructions. Arbitrary use can lead to health risks.

*Fat-soluble vitamins

These are vitamins stored in our liver and fatty tissue. They dissolve slowly and when fat is present in the diet.

Vitamin A: This comes in many forms. Preformed vitamin A (retinyl acetate or retinyl palmitate) is derived from animal products. Provitamin A (beta-carotene) is found in foods of plant origin.

  • Helps form and maintain healthy teeth, skin, mucous membranes, bone tissue, and soft tissue.
  • Pigment production of the eye’s retina; Helps improve vision, especially vision in low light conditions.
  • The beta-carotene form is an antioxidant, which helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

According to WHO recommendations, children aged 6–59 months with severe acute malnutrition should receive the recommended amount of vitamin A daily for the duration of treatment. Children with severe acute malnutrition should be provided with approximately 5000 IU of vitamin A per day, either as an integral part of therapeutic foods or as part of a multi-micronutrient formula.

Vitamin D: Helps the body absorb calcium, creating bone tissue.

Vitamin E: Is an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

  • Strengthens the immune system.
  • Participates in interactions between cells.
  • Participates in the formation of red blood cells.
  • Helps widen blood vessels, preventing blood clotting.
  • Allows the body to use vitamin K.

Vitamin K: Known as the “blood clotting vitamin”, because blood would not be able to clot without it.

*Vitamins are water soluble

These vitamins are water soluble and are transported to our body tissues. Our bodies cannot store them and excess amounts are passed through the body along with waste.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)

  • Supports the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.
  • Essential for the metabolism of pyruvate, a component of glucose.
  • Participate in muscle contraction and nerve signal transmission.

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

  • Essential for carbohydrate, lipid and protein metabolism.
  • Part of the red blood cell production process.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

  • Supports carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism.
  • Helps remove toxic chemicals from the liver.
  • Participate in hormone production in the adrenal glands.

Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)

Essential for the creation of Coenzyme A, involved in most of the body’s metabolic reactions.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

  • Helps create antibodies, proteins used to fight disease.
  • Aids in breaking down proteins.
  • Involved in maintaining proper glucose (blood sugar) levels.
  • Helps produce hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells to tissues.
  • Participates in the maintenance of regular nerve function.
Some essential vitamins. Illustration.

Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Essential for the function of carboxylase, an enzyme that aids in the production of glucose and fatty acids.

Vitamin B9 (Folate or folic acid)

  • Helps the body break down, use and create new proteins.
  • Participates in the production of new red blood cells.
  • Involved in the production and repair of DNA and RNA.
  • Necessary for the production of new cells.

Vitamin B12

  • Part of protein metabolism, the process by which proteins are broken down and absorbed by the body.
  • Essential for DNA synthesis.
  • Helps form red blood cells.
  • Essential for making myelin, which helps insulate cells in the nervous system and allows them to move more efficiently.

Vitamin C

  • As an antioxidant, it helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.
  • Essential for growth and repair of body tissues.
  • Important in forming proteins that make up skin, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels.
  • Participates in the repair and maintenance of cartilage, bones, teeth.
  • Supports wound healing and scar tissue formation.
  • Helps the body absorb iron.

Some essential minerals


  • Is a building block for bones and teeth.
  • Helps children grow and develop.
  • Participate in other biochemical reactions: blood clotting, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, vitamin B12 absorption, pancreatic enzyme activity in fat digestion…
  • Calcium absorption increases when the diet has enough vitamin D. Acid in the digestive system dissolves calcium better. Calcium is reduced in absorption or eliminated if the diet is high in oxalic acid, caffeine, and lack of physical activity.
  • Diets lacking calcium will cause children to suffer from rickets, slow growth, and low height…
  • Calcium is found in milk, cheese, dark green leafy vegetables, seafood, small fish with bones, bean products (eg tofu)…


  • Iron binds to proteins to create hemoglobin, also known as hemoglobin in red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body, and participates in redox enzymes.
  • Providing enough iron helps prevent anemia.
  • Iron is abundant in animal foods such as pork, beef, chicken, fish, formula milk… especially in blood, liver… or plant foods such as beans, green vegetables…

Zinc :

  • Plays an important role in growth, immunity, and reproductive functions.
  • Helps the body metabolize energy and form organizations, helping children eat well and develop well.
  • Zinc deficiency causes children to grow slowly, have reduced resistance and become susceptible to infections.
  • Foods of animal origin contain zinc with high biological value such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, shrimp, crab, oysters, snails, oysters… or in the sprouts of nuts.


It is a very necessary substance in the body in a very small amount of only 15-20 mg. Iodine helps the thyroid gland function normally, preventing goiter and intellectual disability. Iodine deficiency affects growth and development, especially the brain. Fetal iodine deficiency due to maternal iodine deficiency leads to serious consequences such as increased mortality before and after birth, children born less intelligent, mentally retarded…

Using table salt supplemented with iodine is the main measure to prevent disorders caused by iodine deficiency.

4. Main food groups

A healthy balanced diet is recommended to prevent malnutrition. There are 4 main food groups including:

Bread, rice, potatoes and other starchy foods: Provide calories for energy and carbohydrates are converted into sugar to provide energy.

Milk and dairy foods: Important source of fats, minerals like calcium.

Fruits and vegetables : Important sources of vitamins, minerals as well as fiber and roughage for better digestive health.

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans and non-dairy protein sources : They form the building blocks of the body, helping with many bodily and enzymatic functions.

The nutritionist will advise on practical suggestions, such as how to cook or prepare dishes that malnourished people can eat, appropriate to their medical needs and lifestyle as well as taste.

Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and fiber.

The main goal of malnutrition treatment is to provide adequate nutrition to the body. Treatment plans are unique to each individual and will vary depending on the underlying cause. If a malnourished person can eat, eating a more balanced, nutritious diet is the first step to supplementing nutrients. Consuming plenty of calories and protein is important, which may mean including snacks between meals. For people who cannot eat by mouth, they may need nutrients given through a tube inserted into the digestive tract or intravenously (IV).

Diets for malnourished people need to be built based on each person’s health status, level of malnutrition and unique nutritional needs. You should consult your doctor or nutritionist for advice on the most suitable diet.

In addition, malnourished people need to combine a reasonable diet with light exercise, adequate rest and a comfortable spirit to achieve the best results during the recovery process.

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