Nutrition: 5 Common Misconceptions About Undernutrition
Every year in November, the Collective against Undernutrition, commissioned by the Ministry of Health and Solidarity, organizes the National Week of Undernutrition to raise public awareness of this health problem. This silent disease is still too little known and is subject to many prejudices. Here are five preconceived ideas to combat undernutrition.
1- It is a rare problem in France
Contrary to what is often imagined, undernutrition does not only affect poor or famine-affected countries.
In France too, nearly 2 million French people are affected by this health problem, sometimes without realizing it.
We speak of 'undernutrition' as soon as a person does not eat enough to meet his needs. The patient loses weight, muscles and strength.
Doctors consider an adult to be undernourished if they lose more than 5% of their body weight in 1 month or more than 10% of their body weight in 6 months.
Doctors also use the body mass index or BMI to determine whether a person is excessively thin.
In an adult, excessive thinness is when the BMI is below 18.5. But in people aged 70 and older, excessive thinness is when the BMI is below 21.
Even without using this index, you can recognize an undernourished person if they have recently lost 3 kg or more or their clothes are flapping.
2- This problem only concerns the elderly
It is true that this disease mainly affects the elderly, especially when they live alone and no longer have the strength or inclination to do the shopping and cooking.
But senior citizens are not the only ones affected. This problem can also affect adults and children in case of serious health problems or prolonged hospitalization.
Losing weight is never harmless, regardless of the patient's age. In fact, it is estimated that 10% of hospitalized children are affected by this disease.
Undernutrition can also affect patients who have difficulty chewing or swallowing and those who are undergoing treatment that makes them nauseous, such as chemotherapy.
This problem therefore affects many people with chronic diseases, both cancer patients and those with long Covid.
3- Diets limiting salt, sugar or fat must always be respected
If you have a heart condition or diabetes, your doctor may have prescribed a diet.
Nevertheless, if you have lost your appetite and a lot of weight, there is a risk that you are suffering from undernutrition and you need to treat this problem as a priority.
In this particular case, your doctor can advise you and help you change your diet.
You may need to expand your diet and change your habits to stop losing weight. Talk to your GP about this.
4- Undernutrition is incompatible with physical activity
The treatment of undernutrition is of course through good nutrition. But this can be associated with an adapted physical activity.
Indeed, physical activity associated with a good protein intake allows limiting muscle wasting.
It promotes healing and accelerates the recovery of malnourished people.
5- As we age, we need to eat less
If you think it's normal to have less appetite as you age, think again!
To avoid suffering from undernutrition, the elderly need a varied and balanced diet.
Contrary to what is sometimes imagined, older people even need to eat more protein in order to maintain their muscles and stay fit.
Official recommendations recommend that seniors eat 2 servings of protein per day, whether it's meat, eggs or fish.
For people aged 70 and over, it is very important to continue to eat a variety of foods in sufficient quantities.
Preventing undernutrition is a way to avoid losing strength and the ability to move around, to limit the risk of falls and fractures and to avoid aggravating other chronic diseases.
Good to know
If you want more information on undernutrition, its symptoms and means of prevention, you should know that awareness and communication operations are organized throughout France during the National Week of Undernutrition (from 12 to 20 November 2021).
To learn more, you can also visit the official website below.