The expression "you are what you eat" may be more accurate than people think.  Individuals who pair a nutritious diet with other healthy lifestyle choices often look to be the picture of health.  On the flipside, studies show that chronic nutritional deficiencies can create a number of not-so-healthy symptoms.  Take a look at five malnutrition symptoms caused by poor diet.


1.  Dry Hair and Skin

Inadequate nutrition can cause brittle, dry hair or in some cases, hair loss.  Research shows that diets low in essential fats, protein, vitamin C, zinc, and/or iron can lead to thinning hair or hair loss.  Effects of poor diet also extend to the skin by reducing elasticity and moisture content. Foods that help promote good hair and skin health include whole fruits and vegetables, oily fish, avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans.

2.  Weight Loss or Gain

People suffering from malnutrition, especially when associated with disease, often experience weight loss.  Research in 2012 showed that risks for malnutrition were high in 75 percent of people who had undergone surgery for cancer.

Inadequate diets high in empty-calorie foods and beverages can lead to weight gain. Examples of these foods or beverages include processed snack foods, white bread, white rice, pasta, fried foods, ice cream, donuts, soda, artificial sweeteners, and alcoholic beverages.  Following the dietary suggestions mentioned below help people maintain a healthier body weight.

3.  Dental Problems

The effects of poor diet can show up at the dentist's office.  Diets high in sugary foods and beverages (or foods that convert quickly to sugar) raise risks for cavities, gum problems, gum disease, gingivitis, tooth loss, and even unhealthy burdens on heart health.  Some studies show that low vitamin C levels are also associated with swollen or bleeding gums.  Replacing sugary foods with fruits like oranges, melons and berries and adding vegetables like broccoli and bell peppers helps keep teeth and gums healthy.


Related:  Ten Tips to Have Healthy Teeth for Life


5.  Tummy Troubles

According to the American Dietetic Association, most Americans do not get enough daily fiber. A low intake of fiber often results in digestive discomfort ranging from diarrhea to constipation. Studies show that consumption of fiber helps normalize the rate at which food is digested, which encourages a healthier stool.  A high fiber diet also helps maintain healthy cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  Some foods rich in fiber include apples, pears, blueberries, broccoli, celery, steel-cut oatmeal, brown rice, edamame and black beans.

4.  Brain Drain

Malnutrition symptoms in the brain include impaired memory and concentration, and omega 3 fatty acids can help.  To boost brain power, people can add products like wild-caught salmon, oysters, walnuts, flax seed and omega 3-fortified eggs to the grocery cart.

Studies show that what we eat and how much we eat has consequences when it comes to the health.  Diets lacking in important nutrients can result in the symptoms listed above and potentially raise risks for disease over time.  To ensure adequate nutrition from all food groups, people should include the following foods in their diet:


  • Whole fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat, low-sugar dairy products
  • Lean meat, poultry, and fish
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes
  • Healthy fats like avocados and olive oil