A form of malnutrition. Kwashiorkor is a condition resulting from inadequate protein intake.

The incidence of kwashiorkor in children in the U.S. is extremely small and only rare isolated cases are seen. This is typically a disease of impoverished countries often seen in the midst of drought or political turmoil. However, one government estimate suggests that as many as 50 percent of elderly persons in rest homes in the U.S. suffer from protein-calorie malnutrition.

Improving calorie and protein intake will correct kwashiorkor provided that treatment is not started too late. However, full height and growth potential will never be achieved. Severe kwashiorkor may leave a child with permanent mental and physical disabilities. There is good statistical evidence that malnutrition early in life permanently decreases IQ. Risk factors include living in impoverished countries, countries in political unrest, and countries affected by frequent natural disasters such as drought. These conditions are directly or indirectly responsible for scarcity of food which leads to malnutrition.


Adequate diet with appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, fat (minimum of 10 percent of total calories), and protein (12 percent of total calories) will prevent kwashiorkor.

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