The nutritional requirements of the human body reflect the nutritional intake necessary to maintain optimal body function and to meet the body's daily energy needs. Malnutrition (literally, "bad nutrition") is defined as "inadequate nutrition," and while most people interpret this as undernutrition, falling short of daily nutritional requirements, it can also mean over-nutrition, meaning intake in excess of what the body uses. However, undernutrition affects more than one-third of the world's children, and nearly 30 percent of people of all ages in the developing world, making this the most damaging form of malnutrition worldwide.

The etiology of malnutrition includes factors such as poor food availability and preparation, recurrent infections, and lack of nutritional education. Each of these factors is also impacted by political instability and war, lack of sanitation, poor food distribution, economic downturns, erratic health care provision, and by factors at the community/regional level.

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