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(kwăsh'ēôr`kôr), protein deficiency disorder of children. It is prevalent in overpopulated parts of the world where the diet consists mainly of starchy vegetables, particularly in sections of Africa, Central and South America, and S Asia. Such a diet, although adequate in calories, is deficient in certain amino acids, the constituents of proteinsprotein,
any of the group of highly complex organic compounds found in all living cells and comprising the most abundant class of all biological molecules. Protein comprises approximately 50% of cellular dry weight.
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 vital for growth. The nursing infant gets the required amino acids from the mother's milk. But the weaned child, who receives neither milk nor meat, is likely to develop kwashiorkor. The most striking manifestations of the disease are a swollen and severely bloated abdomen, resulting from decreased albumin in the blood, and various skin changes resulting in a reddish discoloration of the hair and skin in black African children. Other symptoms include severe diarrhea, enlarged fatty liver, atrophy of muscles and glands, mental apathy, and generally retarded development. Kwashiorkor is treated by adding proteins to the diet, usually in the form of dried milk.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a special type of severe dystrophy that develops in young children with a diet deficient in protein.

Kwashiorkor is found in the tropics and subtropics (Central and South America, Africa, India). It appears most often once the children are weaned and are transferred to a vegetable diet consisting principally of carbohydrates. The development of the condition may be fostered by infection (tuberculosis, malaria, helminthic diseases), difficult living conditions, and a low standard of living. Kwashiorkor leads to a significant retardation of physical development. The skin becomes dry and scaly. It takes on a reddish tint, and cracks and ulcers may appear. The hair becomes lighter in color and falls out easily. There is a loss of subcutaneous adipose tissue and the muscles are atrophic. Dental caries develop. Edema is often observed. There is a loss of appetite and abdominal distention, and vomiting and diarrhea are frequent. Patients become irritable and apathetic. The course of the condition may be complicated by pneumonia and a decrease in the hemoglobin content of the blood.

Treatment of kwashiorkor involves proper diet and vitamin therapy and blood and plasma transfusions. The condition can be prevented by a balanced diet, a raised standard of living, and the improvement of general medical care.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A nutritional deficiency disease in infants and young children, mainly in the tropics, caused primarily by a diet low in proteins and rich in carbohydrates. Also known as nutritional dystrophy.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


severe malnutrition of infants and young children, esp soon after weaning, resulting from dietary deficiency of protein
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005