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Malnutrition: A Universal Issue

Malnutrition refers to a disproportionate intake of energy and/or nutrients. In Canada, every one in seven children and youth is facing malnutrition (1). This post talks about the concept, which describes the two aspects of malnutrition. This idea is called the double burden of malnutrition - it means the co-existence of overweight with an underweight population in society (3).

  • What is included in the double burden of malnutrition – Malnutrition can be of two types which are undernutrition and obesity. Unbalanced nutrition can lead to either the person being underweight or obese (3).

  • Diet that can affect this burden- The diet that adds to the burden of malnutrition is the Mediterranean diet. It was noticed that people who consume this kind of diet are susceptible to nutritional deficiency. Earlier, the Mediterranean diet was sufficient in nutrients. Presently, the changing dietary patterns and new food industries have led to a decline in the quality of the diet (2).

  • Misconception about malnutrition- There are two misinterpretations about malnutrition. Firstly, it is not just associated with the person who is skinny but also with someone who is overweight and obese. Both the conditions are connected to disturbed nutrition intake, so they both are a part of malnutrition (3). The second most common misconception about malnutrition is that it only occurs among infants; it is also common in older adults.

  • What can be done? It is essential to go for nutrition counseling when malnutrition begins. Dietary changes like food portioning, high protein intake, and calorie adjustments can be beneficial (3). It is important to address that malnutrition could be caused due to non-dietary reasons as well, like poor mental health, stress, and aging.

Given that 34% of Canadians over 65 years are at nutritional risk and 47% of seniors are malnourished on hospital admission in Canada (4), it should be an obligation as well as a moral imperative for health care systems and all citizens to raise awareness about nutrition and take necessary steps to combat it.



1. Zhang, N., & Ma, G. (2018). Interpretation of WHO Guideline: Assessing and Managing Children at Primary Health-Care Facilities to Prevent Overweight and Obesity in the Context of the Double Burden of Malnutrition. Global Health Journal, 2(2), 1-13. Retrieved from:

2. Castro-Quezada, I., Román-Viñas, B., & Serra-Majem, L. (2014). The Mediterranean diet and nutritional adequacy: a review. Nutrients, 6(1), 231-248.

3. Miller, V., Webb, P., Micha, R., Mozaffarian, D., & Database, G. D. (2020). Defining diet quality: a synthesis of dietary quality metrics and their validity for the double burden of malnutrition. The Lancet Planetary Health, 4(8), e352-e370.

4. Tsang, D., Waugh, A., MacDonald-Werstuck, M., Alfieri, M., McGregor, J., Hurley, A., & Kapuscinski, L. (2017). EMR-ization of standardized malnutrition screening and assessment in primary care across Ontario. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice & Research, 78(3).

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