This is a problem whereby a person takes in small amounts of nutrients than what is needed.
Malnutrition is a very big problem that has devastated many countries in the world. The differences in nutritional status are not the same worldwide.
While western countries strugle with problems of overnutrition, Sub-Saharan states are seriously affected with lack of food.
Good health and nutrition are inseparable. Good health cannot exist where nutrition status is poor. Poor nutrition, i.e. undernurtition or overnutrition are a major source of health problems in modern societies. In the past it used to be undernutrion but now both are troubles of modern civilization. While ancient societies used to fight against malnutrition in the form of undernutrition, modern societies are struggling to deal with overnutrition too.
Due to differences in the level of economies, the fight against nutritional problems has been characterized by different approaches. Developed countries largely fight against obesity and overweight problems i.e, overnutrition. Conversely, the developing world is still struggling with undernutrition, i.e. underweight.
Overweight and Obesity
Overweight and obesity are some of the problems of morden civilization! Due to different reasons, people are becoming more and more obese in some parts of the world, especially the western countries. While countries like the United States of America are struggling to build a healthy population that is not overnourished, many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are struggling with undernutrition, especially in rural areas.
Despite having problems with undernutrition, developing countries are also facing problems with overnutrition,
especially among the affluent urban dwellers. Stroke ,
Diabetes , High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
and other cardiovascular diseases are becoming more and more common.
Almost all of these cardiovascular conditions torment people fro life and they also
result in other complications. There is a need for everyone to be vigilant in order
to control this and reduce the cost of living.
This is having inadequate nutrients in the body. It may result into kwashiokor, marasmus and other deficiency diseases.
How to determine if you are underweight, overweight or obese?
Knowing wether you are underweight, overweight or obese is not dificult to determine. The easiest way of determining thisis by measuring your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI gives you an estimation of how much you weigh per square meeter of your body. This measurement(BMI) has four intervals: underweight, ideal, overweight and obesity.
An ideal body weight is that which is in between (18.5-25)kg/square metre. If your BMI is less than 18kg/square metre it means you are underweight and at risk of other health problems wince your body is not having enough nutrients for normal functioning.
If your BMI is above 25kg/square metre but less than 30kg/square metre it means you are overweight. A BMI of greater than 30kg/square metre but less than 35kg/square metre implies obesity while a BMI above 5kg/square metre implies morbid obesity.
The following table shows you body mass measurements and their interpretation.
Body Mass Index Interpretation
Less than 18.5
30 and above
Table 1: Body Mass Index
Apart from BMI, you need also to measure your waist circumference. Too much fat around the waist, also known as central adiposity is dangerous to your health. It is associated with serious eart diseases and you need to take note of this
How to measure your waist circumference
Find the bottom point of your ribs and the top point of your hip, and measure around your middle at a point mid-way between these. The chart below will give you an indication of how your waist size affects your risk of heart disease and other health conditions.
High Risk (cm)
Very High Risk (cm)
Less than 94
94 to 102
More than 102
Less than 80
80 to 88
More than 88
Table 2: Waist Circumference Measurement and Interpretetion
It must be noted that the BMI and waist circumferences reported above are an average of people with European origin. Africans, e.g Malawian and others may even be at an increased health risks at lower BMI. For instance, a BMI of at least 23 and waist circumference above 90cm in males or a waist circumference above 80cm is considered overweight and at increased risk of health problems.
Author: Chimwemwe Masina
Chimwemwe Masina is currently working as a Resident Physiotherapist at DDT College of Medicine in Gaborone, Botswana.
Before joining DDT College of Medicine, he worked in the Ministry of Health at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Malawi,
MagWaz Physiotherapy and Wellness Services in Lilongwe, Malawi. as well as
Volunteering at Physiopedia.
His interest is in Neuromusculoskeletal Physiotherapy and currently he is an assisting
lecturer in Manual Therapy and Lumbar Spine Management.
Disclaimer! Information provided on this page is for educational purposes only and is not meant for specific medical intervention. If you have a medical problem, please contact us or consult a certified medical professional