Malnutrition is a physical state of unbalanced nutrition. It can be recognized as both undernutrition and overnutrition. Undernutrition can be caused by a lack of calories, protein or other nutrients. Overnutrition is caused from eating too many calories. It is possible to have an obese person that is malnourished. He/she may be consuming enough/too many calories, but not eating enough of the calories from nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy. Estimates of adult malnutrition range from 15% to 60% of hospitalized patients. Reasons for this include the patient needing more nutrition than usual or not being able to absorb the nutrients they eat, depending on what the patient is in at the hospital for.
According to a new study published in PLoS ONE, the U.S. spends among $15.5 billion per year in direct medical costs on malnutrition associated with eight diseases. California has been found to be paying the highest price, with estimated costs at $1.7 billion. Wyoming spends the least, at $25 million. It is extremely important that malnutrition be identified and diagnosed in a timely manner. It has been shown that malnutrition increases the risk of death, length of hospital stays and health care costs. Malnutrition can also result in an eating disorder, organ failure or physical trauma. With this being said, it is required for hospitals to screen a patient for malnutrition in the first 24 hours of admission. It is the role of a Registered Dietitian to assess malnutrition using weight history, dietary intake, lab values and a physical exam.
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