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Protein-energy malnutrition can be prevented if the underlying causes of poverty, lack of food, education and hygiene can be eliminated.

Even poor families can prevent malnutrition in their children by making sure that they eat the following regularly: * an unrefined staple food (unsifted maize meal, brown rice or brown bread, which have a much higher nutritive content than highly processed staples) * small quantities of protein-rich foods like eggs, meat or fish (keeping chickens or goats, or fishing, can provide protein-rich foods at low cost) * fresh, dried or sour milk (using skim milk powder or keeping goats or a cow) * fruits and vegetables (growing your own or bartering from neighbours) * Some margarine or oil (soft margarine or sunflower oils are best).

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Education plays an important role in ensuring that populations do not develop malnutrition. When funds are in short supply, it is essential that caregivers spend money on buying nutritious foods and do not waste it on alcohol, sweets, cold drinks or high-fat, high-salt snack foods. Education should also be used to help poor communities grow their own food and keep livestock. Food aid programmes, if effectively implemented, can be used to help supply starving populations with essential foods to prevent malnutrition. How is Malnutrition Treated?

Infants and children suffering from acute malnutrition, kwashiorkor or marasmus are often hospitalized and given intravenous or tube feeding. Once the child has been stabilized, he or she is fed an energy and protein-rich diet together with a vitamin and mineral supplement to try to redress nutritional imbalances. These infants and children often recover well while in hospital, only to be discharged and returned to their original poverty-stricken environment where they quickly deteriorate and become as malnourished as before.

This underlines why poverty alleviation and nutrition education are so essential in preventing malnutrition. People suffering from malnutrition associated with various medical conditions should receive dietetic counseling and/or food or vitamin and mineral supplements. For example, people who have had part of their duodenum (upper intestine) removed should be counseled by a dietician to ensure they eat a balanced diet that is easy to absorb and does not cause abdominal distress. They will also need to take a vitamin and mineral supplement to provide any essential nutrients they may no longer be able to absorb.

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