Malnutrition and Special Populations

08/21/2018 - Identifying and treating malnutrition can be especially challenging when assessing special patient populations. Registered dietitian nutritionists with expertise in areas such as obesity and overweight, pregnancy and vegetarian diets, among others, offer important insight to the management of both over and undernutrition.

Did You Know?

  • Obesity during pregnancy is associated with increased use of health care services.
  • Malnutrition is a physical state of unbalanced nutrition. It can mean undernutrition or overnutrition.
  • A vegetarian diet can be honored while treating malnutrition.

Vegetarians identified with malnutrition or who are at risk will need guidance on how to meet increased protein requirements and achieve improved nutrition status. It is important to recognize the value of shared decision-making in crafting care plans for all individuals, but especially those that have made personal decisions regarding their lifestyle that may not align with typical protocols or approaches for treating malnutrition.

Pregnancy-related malnutrition can significantly impact birth outcomes and is associated with morbidity for both the mother and the fetus. The Evidence Analysis Workgroup reviewed this topic concluded that interventions, such as omega-3, vitamin D, weight loss surgery and medical nutrition therapy, are effective in addressing some maternal and infant outcomes.

Overweight and obesity are often labeled as overnutrition; yet, the metabolic conditions and environmental factors that lead to the storage of energy and lead to overweight and obesity don’t exclude deficiencies in key nutrients. It is common to not only be living with overweight or obesity, but also be malnourished. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can result in a poor diet, but can also be associated with comorbid conditions and related metabolic changes. Recognizing malnutrition requires more than a visual assessment and can only be confirmed by a complete nutrition assessment including a nutrition-focused physical exam.

Events and Opportunities

Learn and connect with colleagues at events focusing on malnutrition and special populations.

Complimentary Webinar

Recognizing and Treating Malnutrition in Special Populations
Date: Wednesday, September 19
Time: Noon to 1 p.m. (Central time)

This webinar series is being offered as a complementary educational opportunity for members who will earn 1.0 CPEU for participation. Live attendance is limited to the first 1,000 registrants. Groups can participate using one registration and all those in attendance will receive CPEU.

@eatrightPRO Twitter Chat

Join the Academy and experts in malnutrition with a special interest in pregnancy, vegetarian diets and obesity and overweight on Thursday, September 20, at noon CST as we host a discussion exploring your ideas, opinions and suggestions for real-life solutions to this complex issue.

Learn more at FNCE®

For a complete listing of FNCE® sessions and details, visit the

Attend this session to learn more on recent research concerning pregnancy-related malnutrition:

  • Session 459. Solving the Challenges of Malnutrition in Pregnancy: An Updated Approach on Tuesday, October 23, from 8 - 9:30 a.m.

Additional Training and Education Opportunities

Nutrition Focused Physical Exam Hands-on Training Workshop

The Academy offers the Nutrition-Focused Physical Exam in-person training workshop for registered dietitian nutritionists to accurately identify and nutrition diagnose for adult patients with, or at risk for, malnutrition. While a nutrition-focused physical exam is only one component of the nutrition assessment, it can provide necessary supportive data. Pocket guides for both pediatric and adult nutrition-focused physical exams are available in the

Access Past FNCE® Sessions

FNCE® attendees have complimentary 24/7 on-demand access to the recordings, PowerPoint presentations and printable handouts for all concurrent sessions (as released for inclusion) based on the year(s) and day(s) of verified attendance. Didn’t attend FNCE®? Access to all recorded programs is available at a discounted member rate and can be purchased directly from the FNCE® On-Demand site.

  • Food as Medicine in Malnutrition and Eating Disorders – Session 291 – FNCE 2017
    The body responds to restriction of nutrition earlier than most clinicians recognize. Identifying the early physical signs of malnutrition will help prevent the downstream effects that alter both physical and emotional health. Speaker will demonstrate and discuss case study examples of combining simple screening tools to assess malnutrition, the role of prophylaxis and more rapid nutrition recovery in severe malnutrition, and practical, creative counseling techniques to continue the healing process.
  • Approach to Malnutrition and Low Protein Diets in Progressive Kidney Disease –Session 197 – FNCE 2017
    This session offers a deep dive into the complex nutritional management of people with chronic kidney disease (CKD), with a discussion on protein energy wasting and the impact that dialysis has on the complex paradigm of protein energy malnutrition and inflammation in the CKD population. Planned with the Renal Dietitians Practice Group.
  • Food for Recovery: Resolving Malnutrition and Disordered Eating Patterns in Addiction and Substance Abuse Populations – FNCE 2015
    Medication abuse, drug use and alcoholism damage all areas of the body, including the ability to eat 'normally' even with sobriety; the registered dietitian provides a key intervention to relieve the acute and long term struggles of the recovery process. Planned with the Behavioral Health Nutrition DPG

Looking for More Research?

Academy Foundation Heroes

Visit the Foundation's website to read more about members who have made significant contributions with special populations and malnutrition.