Menu ENN Search
Language: English Fran├žais

Use of term : Protein Energy Malnutrition?

This question was posted the Management of wasting/acute malnutrition forum area and has 4 replies.

» Post a reply

Mija Ververs


Normal user

13 May 2017, 12:24

Dear colleagues. I thought that we abandoned the term PEM (Protein Energy Malnutrition) years ago because we know that acute malnutrition is caused by deficiencies of various types of (macro/micro) nutrients. But I still see that this term is widely used (including in the academic world). What did I miss - Did we never abandon this term then?
Thanks in advance for your insights.

Bill Kinsey

African Studies Center, Leiden University

Normal user

15 May 2017, 15:11

Hi Mija--Terminology certainly strays from its intended purpose. I thought we first abandoned PCM (Protein Calorie Malnutrition) only to turn to the marginally better PEM. Like you, I keep seeing PEM in papers. Similarly, 'malnutrition' is still applied in blanket-fashion to all nutrition-related deficits regardless of their nature or consequences. I suspect this situation arises in part because so many different academic disciplines are now writing papers on nutrition when the authors lack a background in nutrition.

But let me add one of my favorites. Thanks largely to economically illiterate journalists, almost everyone these days uses the phrase standard of living to mean the level at which people are living....rather than the level at which they should be living. This is wrong. Standards of living are standards--like defined poverty lines, income levels, etc.--similar to the -2 z-score as a standard for the undernutrition threshold.

Excuse my hobby horse!

Frederich Christian Tan

Public Health Practitioner

Normal user

16 May 2017, 03:46

Thank you for sharing this concern Mija. I also have the same sentiment and I think it would be helpful if an article on the evolution through time of these terminologies be crafted or shared (if there is any) to a wider audience.

This is just a thought.


Nutritionniste / IMC

Normal user

22 May 2017, 11:24

Hello, I regularly read comments on various topics, but this one is worth an intervention. Nutrition in the years 1992 - 1993 used the term PEM to differentiate between the two known types of malnutrition, namely Marasmus and Kwashiorkor. With evolution, it was discovered that this malnutrition was not only Protein-energetic, but multideficiency. Today, the term malnutrition is confusing, so it is better to use the term undernutrition.

Anonymous 10291

CARE Cameroun

Normal user

21 Dec 2017, 14:40

I have the impression that many use these old terms largely for lack of information on the scientific and nutritional evolution of the subject. Especially in humanitarian interventions where the actors are very busy on the ground. What will our friends who work in pediatric services say.

If you have any problem posting a response, please contact the moderator at

Back to top

» Post a reply