Are We Guilty of Making Ourselves Ill

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Coke,ritain is fat. We know that. Chefs B and doctors, footballers and even pop stars tell us over and over again, in campaigns against the obesity epidemic. But now, as The Independent on Sunday reveals, new data show that an alarming number of Britons actually suffer from malnutrition. Doctors estimate that more than three million people are malnourished. Most do not re-alise it, although diagnosis rates in hospitals have soared by 44 per cent over the past five years. The most extreme cases echo symptoms found among famine victims in the developing world. Wasted limbs and pot bellies are being seen in British hospitals, where 40 per cent of patients are thought to be malnourished. Marasmus, the protein deficiency most often seen in Africa, has been found among anorexic women here. But the majority of cases are people who lack the vitamins and nutrients vital for the body to function properly. Malnourishment has recently been recognised as a major problem for the sick, elderly and frail, but new statistics gathered for the Department of Health show it affects pregnant women and newborn babies, schoolchildren and adults who believe themselves to be healthy. One woman who vomited frequently during pregnancy developed a vitamin deficiency that went undiagnosed. She suffered brain damage. The calcium shortage found in 8 per cent of young people can lead to crumbling or brittle bones. "If you are young and well, you can still end up malnourished," said Dr Alistair McKinlay, consultant gastro-enterolo-gist at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and one of the country's leading authorities on the condition. "In 75 per cent of people, the problem is not identified." Malnutrition costs the NHS [pound]7.3bn a year according to the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, the experts in the field. That figure is more than double the estimated cost of obesity. Alcohol and drugs can disturb the balance of our bodies - but the main cause, doctors believe, is a poor...
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