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The term malnutrition can refer to both over and under nutrition. In this guide, malnutrition refers to under nutrition; a deficiency of energy, protein and other nutrients that causes adverse effects on the body (shape, size and composition), the way it functions and clinical outcomes1. Most malnutrition is disease related, although some social and mechanical (e.g. dentition) factors can also have an impact2.

Clinical consequences of malnutrition2:

  • Impaired immune response.
  • Reduced muscle strength.
  • Impaired wound healing.
  • Impaired psycho-social function.
  • Impaired recovery from illness and surgery.
  • Poorer clinical outcomes.

Cost implications of malnutrition

The healthcare cost of managing individuals with malnutrition is more than twice that of managing non-malnourished individuals, due to higher use of healthcare resources3.

Malnourished people have4:
  • More hospital admissions/ readmissions
  • Longer length of stay in hospitals
  • Greater healthcare needs in the community (more GP visits, care at home, antibiotics)

Disease related malnutrition costs in excess of £13 billion per annum, based on malnutrition prevalence figures and the associated costs of both health and social care5.

Tackling malnutrition can improve nutritional status, clinical outcomes, and reduce health care use6.

  • The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE CG32) have shown substantial cost savings can result from identifying and treating malnutrition, CG32 is ranked 3rd in the top clinical guidelines shown to produce savings7,8.
  • The cost of managing malnutrition using prescribable nutrition support is low, <2.5% of the total expenditure on malnutrition9.

Size of the problem

At any point in time more than 3 million people in the UK are at risk of malnutrition, most (~93%) live in the community6.

Malnutrition prevalence in the UK

Malnutrition prevalence in the UK

a. Russell and Elia. BAPEN (2012), b. King et al. Proc Nut Soc (2004); 62:Supp 1a: 27A, c. Elia and Russell. BAPEN (2009), d. Cawood et al. Proc Nut Soc (2010); 69 (OCE2);E149, e. Elia M. BAPEN (2003), f. Ralph et al. Proc Nut Soc (2010); 69(OCE2):E206

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