There are different types of nutrition deficiency diseases which occur both in children and adults. This nutrition deficiency disorder is also called Malnutrition. The deficiency diseases are mainly seen in developing countries, areas with high rates of poverty or individuals who have very poor knowledge about the nutrients in food, cleanliness, health, and hygiene.

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Our body needs proteins, vitamins, fats, and many other nutrients for the proper functioning of our body cells, tissues, and organs. Among all these nutrients, proteins are called the building blocks of life as they are responsible for the production of muscle fibres, hormones, enzymes, etc.

Also Read: Food Deficiency

What is Marasmus?

“Marasmus can be defined as a form of nutrition deficiency disorder, usually occurring in children. It can be life-threatening if not diagnosed at an early stage.”


Causes of Marasmus

As mentioned above, it is a nutrition deficiency disease and is mainly caused by:

  • A severe deficiency of protein, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and lipids.

  • Viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections are also major causes of this disorder.

  • Children, older adults, and people with a weak immune system are more prone to marasmus.

Other causes of marasmus include:

  • Poverty

  • Starvation

  • Famine or unavailability of food

  • Lack of education about nutritional requirements

  • Intake of medicines that interfere with the absorption of nutrients

Further Reading: Nutrients

Symptoms of Marasmus

The symptoms of marasmus are more common than the symptoms of kwashiorkor, which include:

  • Dizziness

  • Weight loss

  • Dehydration

  • Lack of energy

  • Stunted growth

  • Chronic Diarrhoea

  • Shrinkage of Stomach

  • Respiratory infections

  • Dry skin and brittle hair

  • Underweight or loss of muscle mass and subcutaneous fat

Risk Factors of Marasmus

The risk factors for marasmus include:

  • The people living in developing countries are more at risk of contracting marasmus.

  • The famine and poverty struck areas have a larger percentage of children suffering from marasmus.

  • If the infants are not breastfed by nursing mothers due to malnutrition, the risk of marasmus increases in children.

  • Insufficient medical care and high disease rates are other reasons that increase the risk of marasmus in the population.

Diagnosis of Marasmus

This deficiency disease can be diagnosed by the physician through a physical examination such as:

  • Skin test for the functioning of the immune system.

  • A blood test to check for the presence of any microbial infections.

  • Height, weight and physical activity of a child according to age.

  • General counselling of a child to study the child’s mental state and behaviour.

  • Urine and stool test for examining diarrhoea and other nutritional deficiency disorders.

Treatment for Marasmus

The first and primary treatment prescribed for the patient suffering from marasmus includes:

  • Multivitamin supplements to improve appetite and nutrition deficiency.

  • Dehydration symptoms can be prevented by the intake of water and other fluids that contain electrolytes.

  • Few antibiotics or other medications are given to treat children with pathogenic infections.

  • A well-balanced diet is given once after the child’s condition is stable and starts to recover slowly.

  • Diet rich in protein like skimmed milk, and other energy-providing food supplements to increase the energy content.

Prevention and Safety Measures for Marasmus

Marasmus is a life-threatening nutrition deficiency disorder which may also lead to death if the symptoms are ignored. Complete recovery can take a month together even with proper diet and medication. Along with the treatment, the patient should also take some preventive steps like:

  • Drinking boiled water.

  • Eating washed and cooked food.

  • Intake of more water to stay hydrated.

  • Maintain good sanitation and hygiene.

  • Having a healthy and well-balanced diet.

  • Learning the importance of nutrition and providing good nutrition for both pregnant women and lactating mothers and educating every mother to breastfeed their infants for 5 – 6 months to protect them from nutritional difficulties and to improve their immunity.

Extended reading: Nutrition In Human Beings

Explore more about Marasmus or other nutrient deficiency disorders at BYJU’S Biology

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Frequently Asked Questions


What are the different types of malnutrition?

The different types of malnutrition include:

  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition
  • Micronutrient-deficiency Malnutrition

How is Marasmus caused?

Marasmus is caused due to the deficiency of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and calories. It mainly occurs due to poverty and food scarcity.


What are the symptoms of Marasmus?

Loss of body weight and muscles are the main symptoms of Marasmus. This leads to an extremely low body mass index (BMI). Other symptoms include dizziness, energy loss, brittle hair, and dry skin.


How is Marasmus different from Kwashiorkor?

Marasmus is severe malnutrition characterized by energy deficiency. Kwashiorkor is a protein deficiency with adequate energy intake, whereas Marasmus is inadequate energy intake including proteins.


Which is the most common form of malnutrition?

Protein-Energy Malnutrition is the most common form of malnutrition. Marasmus and Kwashiorkor are two forms of protein-energy malnutrition.

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