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Kali Hansen
Professor Wylie
HLTH 102021
November 2014
Kwashiorkor
In many third-world under developed countries, many don’t have the ability to receive the
proper amount of nutrients to sustain them with healthy living. Much of this is mostly due to famine,
where the food supply is limited (Healthline). In these developing countries, the education system isn’t
enough to help many to understand how to have a healthy and nutritious diet. With lower resources,
there are many who go through life malnourished. Kwashiorkor is one of the many deficiencies of
nutrients in which many in people in developing countries suffer.
Kwashiorkor or “deposed child” in the African dialect is a condition commonly found in thirdworld countries and is a form of malnutrition. The origin of the condition was first described in 1932 and
comes from an insufficient amount of protein-calorie intake (Physiopedia). This disease is rarely, if
ever, seen in the United States or other developed countries. In rare cases, Kwashiorkor sadly comes
from child abuse or neglect. It mostly happens in underdeveloped countries that are tropical or in
subtropical in parts of Africa and Central America. Primarily it affects tropical areas where many are
plagued with droughts, famines, political unrest, natural disasters, or to where the food supply is limited
(MedlinePlus). It is mostly seen in children ages one to three years old. They, at this time, are being
weaned off breastfeeding, where they receive most of nutrients, and not being adequately fed because
the lack of food supplies.
The common visible sign of a child with Kwashiorkor is a swollen belly and the rest of their body
with very low amounts of muscle mass. Other signs are fatigue, edema, and irritability, failure to grow or
gain weight, diarrhea, flaky skin, and red hair. Their immune system also becomes weak to where they

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become more prone to serious infection or other illnesses. Internally the liver is swollen and edema,
excess water retention, causes the belly to expound outward and to where it looks puffy and bloated.
The recommended amount of protein a child age one to three needs is .55 grams per pound of
body weight (Paula). Children with Kwashiorkor have received very little to no protein intake. Protein is
an essential nutrient that Kwashiorkor proves is dangerous without regular intake. Protein is a main
micronutrient that is very important in any person’s diet. Protein helps to repair damaged cells and to
make new cells. There are two types of protein: structural and functional. Structural protein is found in
the muscles, bones, and connective tissues of the body. Functional protein is in the hormones, like
insulin and the thyroid, digestive enzymes, and also antibodies (Tylee).
Without amino acids from protein the child’s body cannot repair their cells to make new ones
for the child to grow physically and mentally. Protein is another main thing to help maintain your color
pigment in your hair. In countries like Ghana many people associate Kwashiorkor calling the kids “redhair boy” (Tropical Medicine Central Resource).
Kwashiorkor is a condition that must be treated as soon as possible. There are many treatments
for Kwashiorkor. First, it is important that many tests are taken to see the child’s protein levels. They are
then to administer a test to also see the child’s blood sugar levels. Other important tests might be taken
to check the blood and/or urine to measure signs of malnutrition and lack of protein. They can also be
useful to check the function of their kidneys and see the overall health and growth of the child. The
main tests they take arterial blood gas, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), blood levels of creatinine, and blood
levels of potassium, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC) (Healthline).
Depending on how good or bad the child’s condition will determine just how long it will take to
treat the child. During the first part of the treatment, it is safest to start to feed the child slowly. They
cannot have too much all at once as this could harm them. A child’s stomach is very small due to the lack

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food intake. If they eat too much at once it can cause more problems added to the already lack of health
and more treatments is require. With this concern, they give the child protein-rich foods like: fish, soy,
milk, meat, yogurt, and other protein foods.
Milk is one of the more important protein amino acids. It helps build the enzyme lactase and
makes one able to tolerate milk products (MedlinePlus). The child is also given carbohydrates, sugar,
and fats to keep the other nutrients balanced. Gradually, calorie intake is increased to the point that the
child is able to properly grow.
Those who are treating the child must also treat other symptoms that are associated with
Kwashiorkor. Many vitamins and minerals are not present in a healthy diet. Vitamin and mineral rich
foods or supplements help to treat these other deficiencies. Zinc is one of these minerals and is used to
help in the process of curing flaky skin. In order to treat excess fluids in the abdomen, the patient is
given IV fluid to remove the excess fluid and correct the amount electrolytes needed in the body. This
also helps with kidney function to excrete the excess fluids in the abdomen.
There can be permanent mental and physical disabilities if it is left untreated for long periods of
time. If still left untreated it can be life-threatening. Those affected long-term will go into shock, which
often leads to comas. Those who are in comas too long end up eventually passing away (MedlinePlus).
Overall, a child can come to a full recovery from Kwashiorkor. Unfortunately for many of them, they will
have a growth stunt and won’t be able to get to their potential height. Yet if the child doesn’t keep up
with the treatment, it can cause more complications that can be even more life-threatening.
The huge benefactor to help prevent children from getting Kwashiorkor is helping to educate
the parents. Educating them to help keep their children to have healthy diets, will educate future
generations. The areas where kwashiorkor is common, the tropical and subtropical areas, have a few
community public schools to help educate those parents (WHO). Another benefit is that there are many

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relief efforts on hand to help, when natural disasters hit, with food that provide many essential
nutrients. They believe this will help them until they are able to go back to normal. Unfortunately, those
in political unrest are a lot harder to help because those who are in power tend to make things difficult
in the local communities. If those political leaders look bad, it is those who are making them look bad
that get punished most of the time.

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Works Cited
Caffasso, Jacquelyn. "Kwashiorkor." : Causes, Symptoms & Diagnosis. Healthline Networks, Inc,
15 Aug. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.
<http://www.healthline.com/health/kwashiorkor#Overview1>.
"Kwashiorkor." Kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor, 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
<http://www.kwashiorkor.net/>.
“Kwashiorkor." - Physiopedia, Universal Access to Physiotherapy Knowledge. N.p., n.d. Web. 22
Nov. 2014.< http://www.physio-pedia.com/Kwashiorkor.>
“Kwashiorkor." MedlinePlus. Adam, 7 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
<http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nlm.nih.gov%2Fmedlineplus%2Fency%2Farticle%2F001604.htm
v>.
"Mapping Africa's Advanced Public Health Education Capacity: The AfriHealth Project." WHO.
World Health Organization, Dec. 2007. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
<http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/85/12/07-045526/en/>.
Paula, Ella. "Protein Intake for Kids." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 11 Feb. 2014. Web.
12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/441171-protein-intake-for-kids/>.
"Tropical Medicine Central Resource." Tropical Medicine Central Resource. The Imaging of
Tropical Diseases, n.d. Web. 22 Nov. 2014. <
http://tmcr.usuhs.mil/tmcr/chapter16/Kwashiorkor.htm.>
Tylee, Dr. Jenny. "Amino Acids-What Are They and Why Do We Need Them?"EzineArticles.
EzineArticles, 2 July 2007. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
<http%3A%2F%2Fezinearticles.com%2F%3FAmino-Acids---What-are-They-and-Why-DoWe-Need-Them%3F%26id%3D799327>.
Wardlaw, Gordon M. Contemporary Nutrition. a Functional Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill
Education, 2014. Print.