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2.2H: Protein-Energy Malnutrition

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  • Protein deficiency rarely occurs alone. Instead it is often coupled with insufficient energy intake. As a result, the condition is called protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). This condition is not common in the U.S., but is more prevalent in less developed countries. Kwashiorkor and marasmus are the two forms of protein energy malnutrition. They differ in the severity of energy deficiency as shown in Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\).

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\):The 2 types of protein-energy malnutrition


    Kwashiorkor is a Ghanaian word that means "the disease that the first child gets when the new child comes1." The characteristic symptom of kwashiorkor is a swollen abdomen. Energy intake could be adequate, but protein consumption is too low.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): A child suffering from kwashiorkor2

    The video below does a nice job showing the symptoms of the condition.

    Some images of the Kwashiorkor disease.


    Marasmus means "to waste away" or "dying away", and thus occurs in individuals who have severely limited energy intakes.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Two individuals suffering from marasmus3

    The video below shows individuals suffering from this condition.

    References & Links

    1. Byrd-Bredbenner C, Moe G, Beshgetoor D, Berning J. (2009) Wardlaw's perspectives in nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
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