Malnutrition is a serious health condition that occurs when a person's diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients. About 50 million children die annually from severe malnutrition and nearly 100 million children are underweight, mostly in the world's poorest countries.
The traditional measure for determining whether a child is moderately or severely malnourished is based on evaluation of the child's weight directly. However a new study has revealed that measuring the circumference of the arm of children can lead to better diagnosis of malnutrition than weight-based measurements.
Adam Levine, emergency medicine physician at the Rhode Island Hospital in the US, said, "Using a measuring tape to measure arm circumference is the most reliable factor in diagnosing malnutrition. Measuring tapes are inexpensive and readily available in resource-limited environments. Dehydration lowers a child's weight, using weight-based assessments in children introduced with diarrhea may be misleading. When children are re-hydrated and returned to a stable, pre-illness weight, they may still suffer from acute malnutrition."
Researchers studied the clients of an urban hospital in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They analyzed 721 records of all children under 60 months of age who visited the hospital's re-hydration unit with acute diarrhea. They found that 12-14% of children were misclassified with malnutrition using weight-based measures compared to only 1-2% who were measured by arm circumference.
The study has been published in the Journal of Nutrition.