Why Does A Starving Child Often Have A Swollen Abdomen?


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Kath Senior answered
Although many people in the west are obese, starvation is still a sad fact of life for families living in many developing countries. A child is at its greatest danger of developing malnutrition when it stops drinking its mother's milk and starts to eat 'normal' food. If the food is in very short supply, they do not get enough protein to sustain their very rapid growth in early childhood.

Most of the food may be carbohydrate based such as rice, or flour. As well as being short of protein, the child may also suffer mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A child that is short of protein over several weeks and months develops kwashiorkor – with very thin limbs and a swollen abdomen. This is because fluid accumulates in the abdominal cavity because of the imbalance of protein in its diet – and this contrasts with its very thin limbs, which are wasting away as the muscles themselves are digested to be used for energy.

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