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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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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
References in periodicals archive ?
Kwashiorkor usually occurs in those under 4 years of age, living in rural communities, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa.
The answer to why some children show the swelling of kwashiorkor and some show marasmus probably will not be found in the study of severe acute malnutrition or refeeding syndrome alone.
Ten patients were assigned to the K/M group based on the presence of symptoms of both kwashiorkor and marasmus, and serum albumin was obtained from nine of them.
As mentioned above, patients who are at risk of RFS development can be listed as follows: patients with eating disorders, chronic alcoholism, substance abuse, advanced age, inadequate nutrition (e.g., kwashiorkor and marasmus), long-term hunger and vomiting, inflammatory bowel disease, malabsorption, short bowel syndrome, cancer, chronic infections (e.g., the human immunodeficiency virus); patients who underwent bariatric surgery; and infants with a low birth weight and those who are premature.
Could kwashiorkor be an extreme example of a metabolic imbalance we see very often in our chronically ill patients?
Broadhead, "Plasma urea appearance rate is lower when children with Kwashiorkor and infection are fed egg white-tryptophan rather than milk protein," The Journal of Nutrition, vol.
Potassium supplementation in kwashiorkor. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 1997; 24: 194201.
Malnutrition on the other hand is still prevalent in our lower (marasmus kwashiorkor) as well as higher socioeconomic class (obesity and other major nutritional deficiencies)
For instance, aberrations in the gut microbiome have been implicated as casual factors in Kwashiorkor, a form of severe acute malnutrition resulting from inadequate nutrient intake in addition to environmental factors (Smith et al.