Malnutrition

Nutritional deficiencies can be diagnosed and treated through blood tests. We deliver fast malnutrition lab results for accurate detection and diagnoses.

Many things can cause malnutrition, but the most common form of malnutrition is protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). PEM occurs when there isn't enough food available or when the body cannot absorb nutrients from food due to illness. This leads to weight loss, muscle wasting, and organ damage. Severe cases of PEM may also lead to swollen bellies because one's body is trying to store fat that one isn't able to use as energy. If left untreated, especially children with severe forms of PEM will die within weeks or months after symptoms first appear. However, one can recover completely if treated early with proper nutrition through feeding programs. Ulta Lab Tests provides reliable blood work and secure testing; we are one of the most trusted providers of malnutrition lab tests in the United States. We offer fast, affordable blood work and secure testing so you can get your results quickly.

You don't want your health at risk just because you're not sure how much nutrition you're getting each day? We provide fast results for accurate detection and diagnoses, so you know exactly what's happening inside your body - no guesswork involved! You'll receive precise test results in just 1-2 days after collection, so you don't have to wait long at all to find out what's going on inside your body. Managing and reviewing your test results has never been easier with our easy-to-use online portal! Get started now by ordering malnutrition lab tests from us today!

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Serum albumin measurements are used in the monitoring and treatment of numerous diseases involving those related to nutrition and pathology particularly in the liver and kidney. Serum albumin is valuable when following response to therapy where improvement in the serum albumin level is the best sign of successful medical treatment. There may be a loss of albumin in the gastrointestinal tract, in the urine secondary to renal damage or direct loss of albumin through the skin. More than 50% of patients with gluten enteropathy have depressed albumin. The only cause of increased albumin is dehydration; there is no naturally occurring hyperalbuminemia


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Serum calcium is involved in the regulation of neuromuscular and enzyme activity, bone metabolism and blood coagulation. Calcium blood levels are controlled by a complex interaction of parathyroid hormone, vitamin D, calcitonin and adrenal cortical steroids. Calcium measurements are useful in the diagnosis of parathyroid disease, some bone disorders and chronic renal disease. A low level of calcium may result in tetany.

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Decreased levels of ceruloplasmin are found in Wilson''s Disease, fulminant liver failure, intestinal malabsorption, renal failure resulting in proteinuria, chronic active hepatitis and malnutrition. Elevated levels are found in primary biliary cirrhosis, pregnancy (first trimester), oral contraceptive use and in acute inflammatory conditions since ceruloplasmin is an acute phase reactant

A Complete Blood Count (CBC) Panel is used as a screening test for various disease states including anemia, leukemia, and inflammatory processes.

A CBC blood test includes the following biomarkers: WBC, RBC, Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, MCV, MCH, MCHC, RDW, Platelet count, Neutrophils, Lymphs, Monocytes, Eos, Basos, Neutrophils (Absolute), Lymphs (Absolute), Monocytes(Absolute), Eos (Absolute), Basos (Absolute), Immature Granulocytes, Immature Grans (Abs)

NOTE: Only measurable biomarkers will be reported.

Reflex Parameters for Manual Slide Review
  Less than  Greater Than 
WBC  1.5 x 10^3  30.0 x 10^3 
Hemoglobin  7.0 g/dL  19.0 g/dL 
Hematocrit  None  75%
Platelet  100 x 10^3  800 x 10^3 
MCV  70 fL  115 fL 
MCH  22 pg  37 pg 
MCHC  29 g/dL  36.5 g/dL 
RBC  None  8.00 x 10^6 
RDW  None  21.5
Relative Neutrophil %  1% or ABNC <500  None 
Relative Lymphocyte %  1% 70%
Relative Monocyte %  None  25%
Eosinophil  None  35%
Basophil  None  3.50%
     
Platelet  <75 with no flags,
>100 and <130 with platelet clump flag present,
>1000 
Instrument Flags Variant lymphs, blasts,
immature neutrophils,  nRBC’s, abnormal platelets,
giant platelets, potential interference
     
The automated differential averages 6000+ cells. If none of the above parameters are met, the results are released without manual review.
CBC Reflex Pathway

Step 1 - The slide review is performed by qualified Laboratory staff and includes:

  • Confirmation of differential percentages
  • WBC and platelet estimates, when needed
  • Full review of RBC morphology
  • Comments for toxic changes, RBC inclusions, abnormal lymphs, and other
  • significant findings
  • If the differential percentages agree with the automated counts and no abnormal cells are seen, the automated differential is reported with appropriate comments

Step 2 - The slide review is performed by qualified Laboratory staff and includes: If any of the following are seen on the slide review, Laboratory staff will perform a manual differential:

  • Immature, abnormal, or toxic cells
  • nRBC’s
  • Disagreement with automated differential
  • Atypical/abnormal RBC morphology
  • Any RBC inclusions

Step 3 If any of the following are seen on the manual differential, a Pathologist will review the slide:

  • WBC<1,500 with abnormal cells noted
  • Blasts/immature cells, hairy cell lymphs, or megakaryocytes
  • New abnormal lymphocytes or monocytes
  • Variant or atypical lymphs >15%
  • Blood parasites
  • RBC morphology with 3+ spherocytes, RBC inclusions, suspect Hgb-C,
  • crystals, Pappenheimer bodies or bizarre morphology
  • nRBC’s

Comprehensive Metabolic Panel


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Copper is an essential element that is a cofactor of many enzymes. Copper metabolism is disturbed in Wilson's disease, Menkes disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, and Indian childhood cirrhosis. Copper concentrations increase in acute phase reactions and during the third trimester of pregnancy. Copper concentrations are decreased with nephrosis, malabsorption, and malnutrition. Copper concentrations are also useful to monitor patients, especially preterm newborns, on nutritional supplementation. Results of copper are often interpreted together with ceruloplasmin.

Clinical Significance

Copper is an essential element that is a cofactor of many enzymes. Copper metabolism is disturbed in Wilson's disease, Menkes disease, primary biliary cirrhosis, and Indian childhood cirrhosis. Copper concentrations increase in acute phase reactions. Copper concentrations are decreased with nephrosis, malabsorption, and malnutrition. Copper concentrations are also useful to monitor patients, especially preterm newborns, on nutritional supplementation. Results of copper are often interpreted together with ceruloplasmin.


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Useful in the diagnosis of hypochromic, microcytic anemias. Decreased in iron deficiency anemia and increased in iron overload.


Ferritin, Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)

  • Ferritin
  • Iron and Total Iron Binding Capacity (TIBC)

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Folic acid deficiency is common in pregnant women, alcoholics, in patients whose diets do not include raw fruits and vegetables, and in people with structural damage to the small intestine. The most reliable and direct method of diagnosing folate deficiency is the determination of folate levels in both erythrocytes and serum. Low folic acid levels, however, can also be the result of a primary vitamin B12 deficiency that decreases the ability of cells to take up folic acid

Serum iron quantification is useful in confirming the diagnosis of iron-deficiency anemia or hemochromatosis. The measurement of total iron binding in the same specimen may facilitate the clinician''s ability to distinguish between low serum iron levels caused by iron deficiency from those related to inflammatory neoplastic disorders. The assay for iron measures the amount of iron which is bound to transferrin. The total iron binding capacity (TIBC) measures the amount of iron that would appear in blood if all the transferrin were saturated with iron. It is an indirect measurement of transferri

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Leptin is an adipocyte-derived hormone that is essential for normal body weight regulation. Leptin production is under neuroendocrine control so that serum concentrations vary directly with the amount of triglycerides stored in adipose tissue depots.


A lipid panel includes:Total cholesterol —this test measures all of the cholesterol in all the lipoprotein particles.High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) — measures the cholesterol in HDL particles; often called "good cholesterol" because it removes excess cholesterol and carries it to the liver for removal.Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) — calculates the cholesterol in LDL particles; often called "bad cholesterol" because it deposits excess cholesterol in walls of blood vessels, which can contribute to atherosclerosis. Usually, the amount of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) is calculated using the results of total cholesterol, HDL-C, and triglycerides.Triglycerides — measures all the triglycerides in all the lipoprotein particles; most is in the very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL).Very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C) — calculated from triglycerides/5; this formula is based on the typical composition of VLDL particles.Non-HDL-C — calculated from total cholesterol minus HDL-C.Cholesterol/HDL ratio — calculated ratio of total cholesterol to HDL-C.


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Prealbumin is decreased in protein-calorie malnutrition, liver disease, and acute inflammation. It may be used as an indicator of nutritional requirements and response to therapy during total parenteral nutrition and as a biochemical marker of nutritional adequacy in premature infants.

Total protein is useful in evaluating patients for nutritional status, liver disease, protein-losing renal and gastrointestinal diseases, and many other medical conditions. Elevated concentrations may be observed in patients with monoclonal gammopathies, autoimmune hepatitis, infammation, and other medical conditions

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The assay may be useful in the diagnosis of nonthyroidal illness (NTI). Patients with NTI have low T3 concentrations and increased concentrations of rT3. RT3 may be useful in neonates to distinguish euthyroid sick syndrome from central hypothyroidism.

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Transferrin is a direct measure of the iron binding capacity. Transferrin is thus useful in assessing iron balance. Iron deficiency and overload are often evaluated with complementary laboratory tests.

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Vitamin A is critical for vision, growth, and many cell functions. High concentrations of vitamin A are seen with renal failure, but this is not associated with toxicity, and excessive ingestion. High concentrations are associated with bone fractures. Low concentrations of vitamin A are consistent with fat malabsorption and rarely due to inadequate diet. Vitamin A, vitamin E, and carotene are always extracted and detected simultaneously. This is a free vitamin A (retinol

Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is involved in a number of functions in the body, including nervous system (axonal conduction) and muscular functioning (electrolyte flow in these cells), carbohydrate metabolism, enzymatic processes, and production of hydrochloric acid needed for digestion.

Vitamin B1 deficiency is most often associated with alcoholism, chronic illness and following gastric by-pass surgery. Prolonged deficiency causes beriberi. Plasma vitamin B1 is useful in evaluating nutritional assessment and compliance, while whole blood vitamin B1 is useful in evaluating body stores.

Vitamin B12 is decreased in pernicious anemia, total or partial gastrectomy, malabsorption and certain congenital and biochemical disorders



Malnutrition just means ‘bad nutrition.’ This is a condition where a disparity exists between how much food and nutrients a body needs for optimal functions and growth and the actual amount it takes in or absorbs.  This imbalance usually happens with undernutrition, and so that’s the primary emphasis of this content. However, it can be the result of overnutrition, too. 

Chronic overnutrition can result in obesity and even metabolic syndrome, which is a set of multiple risk factors usually characterized by unhealthy levels of lipids, hypertension/high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance, which is a reduced ability for processing glucose. Those who have metabolic syndrome are known to have higher risks of developing both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Another unusual form of overnutrition is that of mineral or vitamin toxicity. This usually happens with excessive supplementation, for example, with higher doses of specific fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin A, coming from supplements instead of food. Symptoms of toxicity depend on the particular substance or substances that are ingested, how severe the overdose is, and whether the situation is chronic or acute. 

Undernutrition happens if one or more crucial nutrients aren’t present or even available in sufficient quantities for normal function and development of the human body. This can happen because of increased levels of demand, an increase in losses, insufficient volumes of intake, or even a disease or condition which lowers the body’s power to absorb and digest nutrients from food. Even though the necessity of adequate nutrition is an eternal constant, the specific demands any human body has will vary over the course of time. 

During the time of pregnancy, sufficient nutritional support is essential for a fetus to grow and develop normally. Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy might result in birth defects and raise the risks of preterm delivery and low birth weight. 

Kids might develop marasmus, which is a condition where the person is severely deficient in protein and calories due to a serious shortage of food consumption. Marasmus often involves stunted growth and a thin body. If a child has enough calories but not enough protein, then they might develop kwashiorkor, which is a condition characterized by delayed development, apathy, an enlarged liver, and edema/fluid accumulation. Deficiencies in particular vitamins might also impact the formation of bones and tissue. For example, vitamin D deficiency impacts bone formation, resulting in rickets. Around the globe, roughly 1 in 3 childhood fatalities are related to malnutrition somehow. Intestinal parasites and food shortages are the primary causes of malnutrition throughout the developing world. In the United States, the majority of instances of malnutrition are attributable to imbalanced and poor diets. 

Acute conditions, including trauma, infections, serious burns, and surgery, all have the capacity to seriously increase a human body’s nutritional requirements for a short while. Those who are malnourished for a stretch of time might have a poorer prognosis and weakened immune systems. They often need more time to heal from their surgical procedures, and so they need more days of hospitalization. Given this, quite a few doctors screen and also monitor the specific nutritional status of any hospitalized patients. Patients that have surgery typically have evaluations both in advance of their surgery and also during their recovery. 

Chronic diseases might be related to nutrient loss, heightened demands for nutrients, and/or malabsorption. Malabsorption might happen in the event of chronic diseases, which include pernicious anemia, pancreatic insufficiency, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease. Higher rates of nutrient loss can happen with excessive bleeding, diarrhea, and chronic kidney disease. There are times that both conditions and their respective treatments can result in malnutrition because of lowered intake. One instance of this would be cancer and chemotherapy that result in lower appetite, nausea, and difficulty swallowing. Those who are chronic abusers of alcohol and/or drugs might get insufficient nutrition, fail to absorb sufficient nutrition, and just lose nutrients. 

Senior citizens don’t need as many calories, but they still need proper and sufficient nutritional support. They’re often less capable of absorbing nutrition, given how they have lower production levels of stomach acid. They might also have one or even multiple chronic ailments that might impact their nutritional status at the time. Simultaneously, they might even have a hard time making meals and even have lower access to various nutritious foods. Older individuals also commonly eat less given a lowered sense of smell, not as much appetite, and mechanical complications with chewing and/or swallowing. 

Symptoms/Signs 

General malnutrition is something that usually develops quite slowly over the course of many months, if not years. As the stores of nutrition in the human body are depleted, there are changes that start happening down at the very cellular level, which impacts biochemical processes, negatively influencing the ability of the body to fight infections.

In time, various symptoms might start emerging, including but not limited to, the following: 

  • In children and youth, listlessness, bloated abdomen, and slow/delayed growth 
  • Anemia 
  • Joint/bone pain 
  • Brittle, malformed (spooned) nails 
  • Brittle and thinning hair 
  • Chronic diarrhea 
  • Dry, scaly skin 
  • Goiter, or enlarged thyroid gland 
  • Edema, or fluid accumulation 
  • Mental changes including irritability and confusion 
  • Slow healing of wounds 
  • Weight loss, weakness, and less muscle mass 

Certain nutrient deficiencies might result in characteristic symptoms. For example, a lack of vitamin B12 might lead to nerve damage resulting in numbness, tingling, and burning in the extremities. On the other hand, insufficient vitamin A might result in higher sensitivity to light and night blindness, whereas not enough vitamin D might trigger osteomalacia, bone malformation, and bone pain. How serious the symptoms are usually depends on how long the deficiency transpired and how intense it was. Certain changes, especially to the nerves and bones, might not be reversible. 

Tests for nutritional deficiencies and current status: 

  • Iron tests include ferritinserum iron, and transferrin and iron-binding capacity. 
  • Trace minerals and vitamins tests include magnesiumcalciumB vitaminsB12 specificallyvitamin Dvitamin A, and folate
  • Prealbumin is frequently used as a malnutrition marker, but the levels of this particular protein might be impacted by several conditions aside from malnutrition. Research is ongoing to understand further what roles prealbumin plays in the human body, particularly for reasons behind changes noticed during a time of illness, as well as the clinical utility of any and all prealbumin testing. 
  • Albumin was used previously alongside or even in lieu of prealbumin for the evaluation of nutritional status. Currently, it’s more frequently employed to screen for and assist with the diagnosis of kidney or liver disease. 
  • Leptin: Suppressed levels of this might indicate patients with malnutrition, but this test isn’t available widely just yet. 
  • Celiac Disease blood tests measure the amount of particular antibodies that are present in the blood. 

Laboratory tests for general screening and monitoring include: 

Non-laboratory tests 

  • Imaging and radiographic sans may be utilized to gauge internal organ health and bone/muscle growth and development: 
  • X-rays 
  • Computed Tomography (or CT) 
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI) 

Undernutrition treatment modalities include: 

  • Reestablishing missing nutrients by eating nutrient-rich foods and taking supplements for specific deficiencies.  For people with severe malnourishment, reestablishing missing nutrients needs to be done slowly while the body adjusts. 
  • Regular monitoring of people with chronic malabsorption disorders or nutrient-losing or protein-losing conditions.  A treatment plan is critical to prevent a recurrence.