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What Are the Consequences of Poor Nutrition?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Poor nutrition can have a significant array of health effects, ranging from loss of bone density to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Members of the lower classes are at particular risk of poor nutrition, as they may not have access to foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains, making it more difficult to get proper nutrition. It is possible to consume well above the recommended daily caloric allotment while still not getting necessary nutrients, a particular concern in areas where populations may rely heavily on high-fat, low-nutrition foods.

Health complications of poor nutrition include physical disease, psychological problems, and cognitive issues. Physically, not getting the right assortment of nutrients can cause loss of bone density, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and conditions like gout, kidney stones, and gallstones, where mineral deposits develop because of dietary imbalances. Patients with poor nutrition are more likely to be obese and can experience problems like cavities, fractures, and muscle strain more commonly than people who are eating well. Hunger can also be associated with obesity, as patients may crave nutrients they are not getting from their regular diets while gaining weight because of a high calorie intake.

Psychologically, poor nutrition has a link with depression and anxiety. Some patients have eating disorders that cause them to eat poorly and create a cumulative psychological effect, where feedback from the eating disorder can cause depression and anxiety while poor nutrition exacerbates it. Eating disorders can also lead to severe physiological problems like damage to the esophagus from vomiting associated with bulimia nervosa, or long term heart complications associated with anorexia nervosa.

The cognitive effects of poor nutrition are also a cause for concern, particularly in young children. Babies and children who do not receive proper nutrition will experience cognitive delays and can be at a disadvantage among their peers. They may have difficulty acquiring skills and knowledge and could also have neurological problems like poor fine motor control or difficulty walking. In adults, limited access to good nutrition can be associated with memory loss and other cognitive complications. This damage can be permanent.

Poor nutrition can also be seen in association with a number of chronic diseases, like diabetes. Patients can become sick because they do not get sufficient nutrients, or a disease may get worse because the patient eats poorly. Bad eating habits may also increase recovery times from acute illnesses, surgery, and injuries. Patients with fractures, for example, heal faster and more evenly when they are getting enough calcium and other nutrients that their bodies need to rebuild bone.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By Ana1234 — On Jul 21, 2014

@umbra21 - Most of the time Western diets don't really have that many problems with poor nutrition because common deficiencies are dealt with without people realizing it. Iodine in salt, for example, or folic acid in bread and B vitamins in energy drinks.

Deficiency diseases are much more common in places where they don't have these kinds of services and they don't have the knowledge or resources to feed themselves or their children well.

We are actually incredibly lucky that we live in a world where goiters are a rare occurrence and fewer people go blind from a lack of vitamin A. But these are still problems effecting other parts of the world.

By umbra21 — On Jul 20, 2014

@MrsPramm - It's possible that lacking vitamin B is what is actually effecting you, rather than iron levels. We tend to run out of B vitamins much more quickly than iron because they are water soluble and leave the body much more quickly.

I suspect that many of the complaints of poor nutrition in children are basically about a lack of vitamin B, because it is found in vegetables that haven't been overly boiled and that's probably the last thing that most children want to eat.

It is well known that lacking B vitamins can make you feel depressed and tired though, which is why they are often included in energy drinks or in those fizzy pep pills that you are supposed to dissolve in water. Basically they are just making up for the fact that people don't eat enough vegetables.

However, if you do get enough B vitamins, eating more won't do anything to help you.

By MrsPramm — On Jul 19, 2014

I find that I feel like I'm depressed when I don't get enough iron in my diet. I guess I actually just feel tired and weak and that translates into being depressed in my mind.

I try to get enough in my food, but if I start feeling really down I take a vitamin supplement and usually I feel better by the end of the day. I know supplements are no substitute for decent nutrition in a diet but it can be difficult to get every nutrient in the modern world when you're busy.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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