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Nutritional Disorders - Homescience Form 2

Nutritional disorders are caused by insufficient or excess intake of a given nutrient(s). Some of the nutritional disorders are:-

  • Kwashiorkor
  • Marasmus
  • Scurvy
  • Goitre
  • Rickets
  • Osteomalacia

There are other nutritional disorders associated with lifestyles.

These include:-

  • Gout
  • Obesity
  • Anorexia nervosa

Background Information

Definition of Terms

This is any substance, liquid or solid that is taken into the body in order to maintain life and growth.

Food Nutrients:
These are chemical components of food that serve a variety of functions in the body.

This is the process by which the body receives and uses the nutrients contained in food for different functions. These include processes such as digestion, absorption and utilization of nutrients in the body.

Balanced Diet:
This is a meal that contains all the nutrients in the right proportions.

This refers to inadequate or excessive intake of nutrients.

Classification of Nutrients


This is a protein deficiency disorder that usually affects children below 5 years.


Kwashiorkor is caused by lack of proteins in the diet. It usually affects children below five (5) years who stop breast-feeding early and are weaned on foods lacking in proteins.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Hair is thin, scanty, brown and silky.
  • Swelling of the belly, face, hands and feet. When one presses the swollen part, the impression of the finger remains on the skin for a while.
  • The skin looks pale. In extreme cases the skin peels and forms raw wounds.
  • Growth is retarded.

  • Child is dull and inactive.


  • Breastfeed for as long as possible

  • Wean on protein-rich foods such as milk, eggs, fish, legumes and tender meat.


Marasmus is a deficiency disorder that is caused by total stavation over a period of time. It can also be referred to as protein energy malnutrition caused by lack of all nutrients.


Marasmus is caused by total starvation, that is, lack of all nutrients.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Extreme loss of weight. The person is skinny and may weigh half of the expected weight.
  • Hair may appear normal, but the head will look big in comparison to the rest of the body.
  • Eyes protrude and the person is generally alert or anxious.
  • The ribs can be clearly seen.
  • A child looks like an elderly person because the face is wrinkled.

  • There is no fat under the skin especially around the upper part of the arms, thighs, buttocks and belly which are wrinkled.


  • Eat adequate balanced meals.

  • Ensure hygienic conditions so as to prevent worm infestation.


Scurvy is a nutritional disorder which is common among people who rarely eat fresh fruits and vegetables.


Scurvy is caused by lack of Vitamin C which is found in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Vitamin C maintains the health of body mucous membranes and makes them resistant to infections.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Unhealthy skin
  • Weak and painful joints
  • Anaemia may develop
  • Blood in the stool and urine

  • Slow healing of wounds


Eat foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, guavas and green leafy vegetables


Goitre is characterized by swelling of the thyroid gland which is situated at the lower front part of the neck.


This disorder is caused by a deficiency of iodine in the diet.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Hypothermia (feeling cold)
  • Dry and rough skin
  • Lack of energy and fatigue
  • Mother may give birth to a mentally handicapped child.
  • Trembling and nervousness

  • Bulging eyes


Take a diet rich in iodine.


This is a condition in which the bones become weak and deformed.


Rickets is a vitamin D, Calcium and Phosphorous deficiency disorder that mainly occurs in children.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Weakness of bones which is characterized by bow-legs or knock-knees.
  • Poor development of teeth.


  • Eat a diet rich in calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D.
  • Expose the body to sunshine.

  • Eat foods fortified with Vitamin D e.g. margarine.


Osteomalacia is the equivalent of rickets in adults.


Osteomalacia is caused by inadequate intake of calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D and it mainly occurs in adults.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Bones soften, become distorted and fracture easily.
  • The legs, spine, thorax and pelvis are deformed.
  • Pain in the bones, legs and lower part of the back.
  • General weakness and difficulty in climbing stairs.

  • In severe cases, one experiences involuntary twitching of muscles especially those of the face and hands.


  • Increase intake of Calcium, Phosphorous and vitamin D.
  • Eat foods fortified with vitamin D
  • Expose the body to the sun.


Gout is a disorder associated with affluent life style.


Gout results from a high intake of roasted red meat and alcohol.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Redness and swelling of affected joints.

  • Very severe pain in the affected joints.

  • Fever, lower back pain and vomiting.


  • Avoid too much roasted red meat and alcohol.

  • Take plenty of water.


Obesity is a condition whereby one takes in excess calories than the body requires. The excess calories are converted into fat and stored under the skin and around vital internal organs.


This condition is caused by:

  • Excess intake of carbohydrates and fats.
  • Lack of adequate exercise.
  • Eating junk food.
  • Sedentary lifestyles.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Excessive body weight.
  • Tiredness and shortness of breath.
  • Complications such as heart disease, diabetes and hypertension may arise.


  • Avoid junk food
  • Avoid excess intake of carbohydrates and fats.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a well balanced diet.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological problem where someone gets a distorted image of oneself as being fat and unacceptable, hence refuses to eat at all.


Anorexia Nervosa is caused by refusal to take food leading to thinness. It is common among teenagers and young women and it is fatal.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Sudden weight loss.
  • Depression
  • Feeling overweight even when thin and underweight.
  • Avoidance of food.


  • Eat a balanced diet.

  • Counsel individuals to learn to accept themselves as they are.

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