Can Obesity Cause Malnutrition?

Can Obesity Cause Malnutrition? Malnutrition in Obesity Explained


When we talk about malnutrition, we usually don't think about it being related to obesity. But it's important to know that malnutrition, which means not getting enough essential nutrients, can happen to people who don't have enough to eat and are struggling with being overweight. It's surprising, but whether you are underweight or overweight, your body can still lack the nourishment it needs.


Obesity is a complicated disease that can disrupt several processes in the body, making it harder to absorb nutrients properly. When you have an imbalanced diet that contributes to obesity, it can make malnourishment problems even worse. When your body doesn't get the right nourishment, it can lead to various health issues such as anaemia, poor eyesight, weakness, and fatigue.


However, because we mainly focus on the visible problem of excess weight, we may overlook these issues, thinking they are solely caused by being overweight. This can lead to long-term health problems because we might not realize essential vitamins and minerals deficiencies. So, are all people struggling with excess weight malnourished? Not necessarily. Let's explore how malnourishment and obesity can exist together and some of the risk factors associated with having both of these health conditions.

Reasons Why People Living with Obesity May be Malnourished

While obesity doesn't directly cause malnutrition, a series of consequences related to weight gain can impact nutritional health. Surprisingly, more people with obesity struggle with malnourishment than those with an average weight. The main reason is often poor food choices, contributing to weight imbalance. However, other lesser-known factors can play a role. Let's explore some common reasons why someone with obesity may experience malnourishment.

Overconsumption of processed foods

We often find a lot of processed foods in our society, but they don't help us manage our weight or eat a healthy diet. Processed foods are made by adding certain ingredients to make them last longer, look more appealing, or taste better. These ingredients include hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavourings, and emulsifiers. The problem with processed foods is that they usually contain calories but lack essential nutrients. They contain lots of fats, salt, and sugar but not much else our bodies need. Even though these foods may taste good, be cheap, and be easy to eat, they don't make us feel complete or provide us with the necessary nourishment.

Not enough fibre

Fibre is a unique plant nutrient, and our bodies can't fully digest it. It's important because it helps with digestion, makes us feel full, and lowers the risk of heart problems by reducing cholesterol levels. Since fibre is mainly found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, most Americans don't get enough. The recommended amount of fibre you should aim for depends on your age and gender. For men, it's around 38 grams per day if you're 50 or younger and a bit less if you're 51 or older. For women, the goal is a bit lower, around 25 grams if you're 50 or younger, and a bit less if you're 51 or older. But on average, most Americans only get 10-15 grams of fibre daily. This is much less than we need, and it can make us feel hungrier and increase the risk of constipation. When our diet lacks fibre, it usually means we're not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which can also put us at risk of malnourishment.

Lack of nutritious meal planning

Meal planning can be complex when busy schedules make it more difficult to find time to shop for food and cook at home. Lack of meal planning can ultimately lead to more meals on the go, including convenient, fast foods and pre-packaged food items. These foods are often higher in total calories, fat, salt, and sugar while low in fibre, protein, and vitamin and mineral content. This discrepancy can further the issue of malnutrition in a population that may already be struggling with or at risk of obesity.

Digestive issues and poor nutrient absorption

Specific individuals may have existing health conditions that can make them more prone to malnutrition. Digestive issues and problems with nutrient absorption are common examples. Diseases like ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, or previous bariatric surgery can cause these issues. When the body cannot absorb nutrients properly, it can result in a decline in overall nourishment. Usually, this affects the absorption of vitamins and minerals, but it can also impact the absorption of macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Consequently, it can lead to the loss of muscle mass and overall weakness in the body.

Excessive alcohol consumption

When alcohol is consumed in moderation, it can be a part of a healthy diet. However, excessive alcohol intake can make obtaining the necessary nutrients for a balanced diet challenging. Alcohol is a toxin, so when we consume it, our bodies prioritize processing alcohol over other nutrients. Additionally, alcohol can lower inhibitions, which may lead to increased consumption of unhealthy foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. These foods provide empty calories, meaning they offer little nutritional value. This can worsen or contribute to malnourishment because our bodies aren't receiving the necessary nourishment from these food sources.

Mental health disorders

Over 20% of American adults are estimated to experience a mental health disorder. While no scientific evidence links specific foods to mental illness, research indicates that an unhealthy diet can exacerbate symptoms of existing mental health disorders. Consuming foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt, and heavily processed can have a detrimental effect on gut health. The gut plays a crucial role in producing approximately 95% of serotonin, which affects mood and gastrointestinal well-being. This situation creates a paradoxical scenario: when mood is negatively affected, and signs of depression and anxiety are prominent, eating habits tend to deteriorate. Consequently, individuals may consume more unhealthy junk foods and reduce their intake of nourishing foods, worsening or contributing to malnutrition.

Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition

Recognizing the indications and manifestations of malnutrition is essential for identifying possible nutritional insufficiencies and taking prompt action to address them. Familiarity with these symptoms enables individuals and healthcare providers to identify the requirement for adequate nutritional assistance and interventions to promote overall health and well-being.

Dry hair and skin, brittle nails

Dry hair, dry skin, and brittle nails may appear as surface-level problems but can indicate a more significant underlying issue. When our bodies aren't properly nourished, they prioritize resources for vital areas like our organs, leaving less for non-essential parts such as our hair, skin, and nails. Diets lacking in nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and protein can result in deficiencies of essential nutrients like iron, certain B vitamins, and other micronutrients. These deficiencies can further worsen the health of our skin, hair, and nails. So, it's crucial to have a balanced diet that includes these essential nutrients to support healthy hair, skin, and nails.

Loss of muscle mass

Muscles play a crucial role in our bodies. They help us move, provide strength, and contribute to our overall mobility. But did you know that muscles also impact our metabolism? Muscles require more energy than fat, which means they burn more calories even when we're at rest. So, having more muscle mass can help our bodies burn more calories throughout the day.


However, a diet high in processed foods and lacking sufficient protein can lead to malnourishment and loss of muscle mass. This not only slows down our metabolism but also weakens our bodies overall. It's essential to have a balanced diet that includes enough protein to support muscle health and maintain a healthy metabolism.


Slow wound healing

Wounds can happen for various reasons, like injuries from accidents, pressure sores due to lack of movement, or diabetic ulcers caused by high blood sugar after an injury. In all of these cases, having the right nutrition is crucial for proper wound healing. When someone is malnourished, their body may lack the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for healing wounds. Nutrients like protein, vitamin E, and vitamin C are particularly important for optimal wound healing. In individuals who are malnourished, wounds may heal slowly or may not heal at all. It emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy diet to support healing.

How to Avoid Malnourishment While on a Diet

Strict weight loss programs that aim for quick results can accidentally lead to poor nutrition. When these programs severely limit the number of calories you eat or eliminate certain types of food, they might not give your body enough important nutrients it needs to work properly. These strict approaches can cause problems like insufficient vitamins and minerals, leading to deficiencies and malnutrition. Follow these tips to make sure your body gets the nourishment it needs.

Eat nutrient-dense, whole foods.

Eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy is good for your body. These foods have many important vitamins and minerals that keep you nourished and healthy. When you have the option, it's better to choose whole foods instead of processed ones. For example, eating a fresh banana is better than eating banana chips, and having a lean chicken breast is better than eating chicken nuggets. By making these choices, you can stay nourished and avoid malnutrition.

Monitor your calorie intake.

Many apps are available that focus on diets, weight loss, and healthy eating. While not everyone likes tracking calories, it can be a valuable tool to learn about the amount and quality of the calories you eat. Apps like My Fitness Pal are free and help you understand how much protein, fibre, and vitamins/minerals you consume. Tracking calories and food intake can help you change your diet if you notice that you're getting too much or too little of a particular nutrient. When we eat a healthy diet, it's easier to avoid malnourishment.

Drink enough water

Our body needs water daily, and the amount we need can change based on different things. Some factors include how old and active we are, the weather (like hot or humid conditions), and any medications we might be taking. Drinking enough water can help keep us hydrated and make it easier to control our hunger. When we can control our hunger, making healthier choices and having a balanced diet is more accessible. Staying hydrated is just one of the many things we can do to avoid malnourishment.

Get all the nutrients you need And lose weight.

Malnutrition can affect people of all body types, even those who struggle with being overweight. The problems related to obesity can make it harder to get the right nutrition. Eating too many processed foods, not getting enough fibre, not planning nutritious meals, having digestive problems, drinking too much alcohol, and having mental health disorders can all lead to malnourishment. To avoid malnourishment, it's essential to focus on eating healthy foods with lots of nutrients, keeping track of how many calories you eat, and drinking enough water.


If you want to lose weight and manage your nutrient intake, we would happily assist you through our website. Visit our website and contact us to receive guidance and support on your weight loss journey while ensuring you meet your nutritional needs. We are here to help you achieve your goals healthily and sustainably.







































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