Body composition changes

Body Mass

  • Body mass is significantly decreased in a heterogeneous way.

Fat Mass

  • Fat stores can decrease to a low as 5% of the total body weight and be macroscopically undetectable. The remaining fat is usually stored in the liver.

Total Body Water

  • The proportion of water content in the body increases with the increased seriousness of protein-energy malnutrition and is associated with the loss of fat mass, which is poor in water. The proportion of extracellular water also increases, often resulting in edema.

Protein Mass

  • Mainly represented by muscle and some organs (eg heart), protein mass can decrease up to 30% in the most serious forms. The muscle fibers are thin with loss of striation. Muscle cells are atrophic, and muscle tissue is infiltrated with fat and fibrous tissue.

Other Organ Mass

  • The brain, skeleton, and kidney are preserved, whereas the liver, heart, pancreas, and digestive tract are first affected.