Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition caused by inadequate protein intake. Severe protein deficiency in children under five years, resulting in retarded growth, lethargy, oedema, diarrhoea, and a swollen abdomen. It is common in developing countries with a high incidence of malnutrition.
It is prevalent in overpopulated parts of the world where the diet consists mainly of starchy vegetables, particularly in sections of Africa, Central and South America, and S Asia. Such a diet, although adequate in calories, is deficient in certain amino acids, the constituents of proteins vital for growth.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Kwashiorkor occurs most commonly in areas of famine, limited food supply, and low levels of education, which can lead to inadequate knowledge of proper diet.
Symptoms of Kwashiorkor
The most striking manifestations of the disease are a swollen and severely bloated abdomen, resulting from decreased albumin in the blood, and various skin changes resulting in a reddish discoloration of the hair and skin in black African children.
Other symptoms include
- severe diarrhea,
- enlarged fatty liver,
- atrophy of muscles and glands,
- mental apathy, and
- generally retarded development.
Prevention and Treartment of Kwashiorkor
Adequate diet with appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, fat (minimum of 10 percent of total calories), and protein (12 percent of total calories) will prevent kwashiorkor.
Kwashiorkor is treated by adding proteins to the diet, usually in the form of dried milk.