Under-nutrition is the condition that develops in an individual as a result of continuously failing to get enough of the nutrients the body needs to stay healthy and functioning. Most commonly thought of as impacting children in underdeveloped countries, under-nutrition can cause permanent damage to the body and result in stunted growth and a compromised immune system, along with problems throughout the rest of the body's systems. It is also one of the conditions that falls under the category of malnutrition.
Along with not getting enough food, an individual who is under-nourished does not get enough of the vitamins and nutrients required to keep the body functioning. The condition has been shown to go hand in hand with poverty and consequently occurs in developed and underdeveloped countries to different degrees. The condition can begin to develop in infancy in children fed solely on breast milk. Lacking in vitamins such as D and K, a diet solely consisting of breast milk can severely impact a child's bone strength and skeletal structure.
Under-nutrition has visible effects, such as a low weight and an unhealthy appearance. It also has unseen effects on the various systems of the body. Muscles, the heart, and lungs can begin to deteriorate. This can develop into fatigue, difficulty breathing, and when the body stops being able to produce enough healthy blood cells, it can result in the development of anemia.
An incomplete diet has an impact on the brain as well as the body. An individual suffering from under-nutrition can have trouble concentrating, suffer from a lack of interest in surroundings, and have trouble retaining new information as well as remembering old. Iodine is one of the key nutrients in brain function and development; without it, an individual can develop a compromised thyroid, a growth imbalance, and difficulties performing tasks at school or work.
The immune system is often highly compromised by under-nutrition. The individual may be more susceptible to viral infections and colds, and less likely to be able to fight off a bacterial infection. He or she may be more likely to develop severe diarrhea, dehydration, or pneumonia, leading to death.
In adult women who suffer from under-nutrition, the condition can severely impact the life of an unborn baby. If it does not prove deadly, a baby born to an undernourished mother has a higher chance of birth defects, low birth weight, and suffering from developmental disabilities. Before birth, the child relies on the mother's diet to supply vitamins and nutrients; if good diet is lacking, mother and child can suffer irreversible damage.