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ARTICLE
Year : 2007  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 155-162

A review of some metabolic changes in protein-energy malnutrition


Department of Chemical Pathology, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, Nigeria

Correspondence Address:
S A Akuyam
Department of Chemical Pathology, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria
Nigeria
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) is a major public health problem in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world and often arises during protein and / or energy deficit due to nutritional inadequacy, infections and poor socio-economic and environmental conditions. It is the most common nutritional disorder affecting children in developing countries and the third most common disease of childhood in such countries. PEM has a lasting effect on immune functions, growth and development of children, learning ability, social adjustment, work efficiency and productivity of labour. It seems that many deaths from PEM occur as a result of outdated clinical practices and that improving these practices reduces the rate of morbidity and mortality. This paper reviews various metabolic changes in protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). It gives an overview of the theoretical basis for the understanding of the biochemical derangements in PEM. It aims at stimulating the paediatricians and clinical chemists to read more on the recent advances in this broad subject with the view to improving the understanding of the current laboratory investigation of PEM. This review demonstrates that the metabolic changes in PEM include water and electrolytes imbalance, amino acids and proteins deficiencies, carbohydrates and energy deficiencies, hypolipidaemias, hypolipoproteinaemias, hormonal imbalance, deficiency of anti-oxidant vitamins and enzymes, depression of cell-mediated immune complexes and decrease in amino acids and trace elements in skin and hair. The review therefore suggests that assessment of these conditions in PEM patients could improve the management of this group of patients and hence reduce the rate of morbidity and mortality from PEM.


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