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Frequently Asked Questions

What is undernutrition?

Undernutrition and malnutrition are often used to describe the same condition.

Malnutrition is defined as a state of nutrition in which a deficiency, excess or imbalance of energy, protein and other nutrients causes measurable adverse effects on body form (body shape, size and composition) and function and clinical outcomes (Elia, 2003). In simple terms, food is not being eaten in the right quantities to provide all the nutrients that are needed.

Undernutrition is related to not eating enough energy and protein. Undernutrition can be reversed by adequate nutritional support if provided in a timely manner.

How can you identify if someone is at risk of undernutrition?

By using the BAPEN’s ‘MUST’ self-screening tool you can determine if someone is at risk of undernutrition. All you need to know is their height, current weight and weight 3-6 months ago. The self-screening tool will identify if the individual is a low, moderate or high risk of undernutrition. Dietary information leaflets on how to treat undernutrition can be found in our resources.

If someone is identified as a moderate or high risk of undernutrition, what does this mean?

If someone is identified at risk of undernutrition this means they have unintentionally lost weight and/or have a low weight for their height (BMI: Body Mass Index). Don’t worry there are a few simple things that can be done to help increase the calories, protein and nutrients in their diet. Dietary information leaflets on how to treat undernutrition can be found in our resources.

Why do people become undernourished?

Weight loss can happen for a variety of reasons, such as having a poor appetite and not eating as much. This might be because of a recent illness or not finding it as easy to prepare meals or do shopping.

Another reason people become undernourished is that additional energy is required. This again can happen for a variety of reasons for instance helping a wound to heal, fighting an infection or an episode of diarrhoea and vomiting.

Where to get help?

To determine if someone is at risk of undernutrition use BAPEN’s ‘MUST’ self-screening tool. Dietary information leaflets on how to treat undernutrition can be found is in our resources section. If further information if required contact the GP who may refer you to a Registered Dietitian for advice.

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