Understanding Marasmus Caused By Serious Protein-Energy Malnutrition

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Marasmus is supposed to be a severe type of protein-energy malnutrition. When a human being does not consume adequate calories and proteins, it culminates in marasmus. Without proteins and other vital nutrients, energy levels tend to dip precariously low and gradually all vital functions would be stopping. Both children and adults could be developing marasmus; however, young children belonging to the developing nations are the most common victims. It has been estimated by UNICEF that almost 50 percent of all deaths occurring in children below 5 years of age result from malnutrition. We understand that there are around 3 million such deaths every year.

As per https://emedicine.medscape.com, “Marasmus is one of the 3 forms of serious protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). The other 2 forms are kwashiorkor (KW) and marasmic KW. These forms of serious PEM represent a group of pathologic conditions associated with a nutritional and energy deficit occurring mainly in young children from developing countries at the time of weaning.” Lack of protein bodies and other nutrients lead to marasmus.

Causes of Marasmus

Some of the chief causes of marasmus are:

  • Not getting adequate nutrition or consuming too little food.

  • Having the wrong nutrients or consuming an excess of one nutrient and not having enough of another.

  • Having a certain health issue that makes it really tough to absorb or process the consumed nutrients properly.

Who Are at the Risk of Marasmus?

Generally, older adults living alone and finding it really difficult to cook meals for themselves are supposed to be exposed to marasmus risks. Sometimes, this disease may impact an older adult not consuming in a healthy way for over an extended period of a few months or even years.

Generally, infants from locations where food is supposed to be scarce need to be breastfed as much as possible to minimize the risk of malnourishment or marasmus. However, if the infant does not get any solid food to supplement breast milk for over 6 months, there could be a definite increase in the risk of developing marasmus particularly if the mom is herself malnourished.

Symptoms of Marasmus

In Older Woman

The key Marasmus symptoms in older women are an acute loss of muscle tissue and body fat. This may result in an incredibly low BMI or body mass index. Marasmus is actually a kind of wasting.

In a Child

The key marasmus symptoms that appear in a child is the actual failure to attain growth and experiencing a condition called stunted growth. In older kids and adults, the key signs could be wasting or acute loss of both fat and tissue from the body. A child inflicted with marasmus may feel quite hungry and would be sucking his hands or clothes as if wanting to eat something. However, some individuals with marasmus will be having anorexia, as such, they would refuse to eat or they may not be even able to eat.

Eventually, over a period of time, an individual with marasmus would be losing body fat and tissue from his face and you could see the bones from under his skin. With substantial body mass loss, folds of skin would appear and his eyes would get a sunken appearance.


Besides weight loss, some of the long-term symptoms of marasmus in kids would include repeated infections and slow or stunted growth. Respiratory infections, measles, and diarrhea are some of the serious complications that could prove to be fatal in children suffering from marasmus.

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