Generally, the growing children suffer from protein energy malnutrition as the required amount of proteins needed for their growth and development is not available. A number of children in the age group of 1-5 years suffer from this disease.

PEM is due to two reasons:

  1. Lack of proteins or carbohydrates or both in the diet.
  2. More intake of carbohydrates than proteins.

Protein energy malnutrition results in two diseases:

  1. Marasmus
  2. Kwashiorkor

1. Marasmus

It is caused due to the deficiency of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. It usually affects infants below the age of one year.


  1. wasting of muscles reduces the child to skin and bones.
  2. folded skin.
  3. sunken eyes, thin face, thinning of limbs and abdominal walls.
  4. retarded physical and mental growth.
  5. ribs become prominent (Pigeon chest)
  6. Oedema and skin pigmentation are absent.

2. Kwashiorkor

This disease develops when mothers stop feeding their babies with breast milk and the child is given traditional family food having low protein in it.


under weight, has protruding bellly, the skin is dark and scaly, has enlarged liver, has anaemia, suffers from repeated diarrhoea, stunted growth, loss of appetite, hair becomes reddish, swelling of legs and feet due to retention of water by the cell (oedema)


The child suffering from kwashiorkor and marasmus can recover if adequate protein and carbohydrate rich food is given.