General information on malnutrition

How large is the problem of malnutrition?

Disease related malnutrition is a large problem within European countries.

Dutch prevalence data show prevalence rates of 25-40% in hospitals, 20-25% in nursing homes and 15-25% in home care. Data from other European countries are comparable

Malnutrition affects all age groups, but older people in the community, patients admitted to hospitals and in institutions are particularly at risk.

Malnutrition is caused primarily by poor food and nutrient intake; the effects of disease and treatment also contribute to the development of malnutrition. Patients may face anorexia, side effects of treatment which hamper food intake or metabolic alterations as a result of inflammation induced by the underlying disease or therapy.

Why is there a problem?

Malnutrition often still goes undetected and untreated in hospitals, care homes and in people living in their own homes all across Europe. Disease related malnutrition is undervalued, not only by physicians, nurses and the management, but also by patients and their relatives.

There is now rapidly growing evidence that (early) recognition and treatment of malnutrition is effective and cost-effective.

How to fight malnutrition?

Early screening and treatment of malnutrition has been shown to be effective in increasing body weight, increasing function, decreasing complication rate and even decreasing mortality.

However, most European countries are facing hurdles when it comes to nationwide implementation of screening and treatment of malnutrition. This website provides information on the Dutch approach.

Consequences of malnutrition

Malnutrition has adverse consequences. See figure below.