Newsletter Article

The Link Between Obesity and Malnutrition

Malnutrition occurs when a person does not get enough nutrients, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Causes of malnutrition are a lack of specific nutrients in the diet, an unbalanced diet and medical problems that cause absorption complications. [1]

Obesity is prevalent in the United States and around the world, and there are multiple genetic, environmental and behavioral factors that contribute to this epidemic. While obese individuals typically have a high caloric intake, they also have high rates of micronutrient deficiencies. The increased availability of low cost, calorically dense processed foods with little nutritional value is a key component in the growing rates of obesity worldwide. Certain micronutrients are important for proper function in glucose metabolism and pancreatic function, which suggests that a micronutrient deficiency may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. [2]

Vitamin D insufficiency is common in obese individuals and diabetics. Significant evidence suggests that supplementing type 2 diabetics with vitamin D may improve glucose metabolism and insulin signaling. Chromium is a mineral that is required for insulin signaling, and chromium deficiency has been identified in malnourished patients with insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia. Chromium deficiency rates in obese individual are not available, however a number of clinical trials have examined the role of chromium in patients with type 2 diabetes. There are several other nutrients that have the potential to impair glucose metabolism. [2]

Malnutrition can occur in individuals that are overweight/obese as well as those that are underweight. Malnutrition can play a role in a number of different diseases in different stages in life, and so micronutrient deficiencies should be addressed in obese patients along with lifestyle changes such as a balanced diet and physical activity.