If you live with a medical condition, or are experiencing an illness, you may have lost your appetite, and are now worrying about losing weight without trying. 

If so, you might be at risk of what’s known as disease-related malnutrition.   

Disease-related malnutrition

Living with a medical condition or illness can make it more difficult to eat, digest or absorb food. This means your body may not be getting all the nutrients it needs to keep you healthy, which can lead to poor nutritional health.  This in turn puts you at risk of disease-related malnutrition, even if you are overweight or normally eat well.  

Disease-related malnutrition can affect your quality of life. It can 

  • Affect how well your body works 
  • Affect recovery from illness 
  • Cause you to feel weak  
  • Increase your chance of getting an infection 
  • Cause wounds to heal more slowly than normal. 

Resources to help you improve your nutritional health

The Patients Association has been working with patients, carers and experts in the field of nutritional health to create a set of resources to help individuals who are experiencing problems eating, unintentional weight loss or poor nutrition due to disease-related malnutrition. 

The resources -- two factsheets and an animation -- help you to identify your risk for disease-related malnutrition and signs to look out for, describe how oral nutritional supplements can be used as a treatment for disease-related malnutrition, and provide tips on where to get advice and further information to ensure that your nutritional health is the best it can be.   

About Disease-Related Malnutrition        

About Oral Nutritional Supplements 

Both these factsheets are PDFs, which you can download if you like. To improve accessibility for visually impaired people, open the factsheets using Adobe Reader and use the Read Out Loud function.

We would love to know how helpful the factsheets are, so once you've read them, if you could take a short survey, we'd appreciate your feedback.

The following organisations have endorsed the disease-related malnutrition and oral nutritional supplement factsheets as suitable for patients and carers. 

Managing Adult Malnutrition in the Community logo      Royal College Nursing logo     Self Care Forum logo     PINNT logo        

Disease-related malnutrition information video

About the resources

More than three million people in the UK are at risk of malnutrition and many are unaware of their risk.  But there are treatments and support for patients, and we believe that with the right knowledge, tools, and support, patients can manage their nutritional health.  That's why we launched this project, with the goal of producing educational resources based on what patients and carers told us they would find useful.

The resources were developed in partnership with patients and carers, supported by a steering group made up of clinicians, experts in nutritional health, and patient advocates. This project was supported by an educational grant from Nutricia Ltd., who also supported dietician Emily Walters to carry out research into what is known about disease-related malnutrition. You can read Emily's findings in her report, which calls for better sign posting and more tailored advice for patients around disease-related malnutrition to help people recognise they may have a problem and are able to take care of it themselves.

You can read more about why and how we developed the resources, and the many people who supported their development, in our report on this project. We are grateful to Nutricia for its guidance, input and involvement.   

Further information  

If you are experiencing issues with your nutritional health, it can be difficult to find trusted online sources of information. Below are links to sources of advice and information to help you identify risks of poor nutrition (malnutrition) and how to cope at home. If you continue to have concerns or need more advice and support, please contact you doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or dietitian.  

Resources to help identify whether you are at risk for poor nutrition 

  • The Patients Association Nutrition Checklist, updated in 2021, is a guide for signs that you may need nutritional help or extra nourishment. It asks questions about your nutrition and gives advice on what to do next.
  • You can also check your risk using the BAPEN self-screening online tool. You will need to know or estimate your weight 3-6 months ago or usual weight, your current weight and height. The tool gives you a risk of low, medium or high risk and also advice on what to do next.

General advice and information 

The British Dietetic Association  

The Malnutrition Pathway  

The NHS website 

Advice for people living with cancer 

Cancer Research UK  

Macmillan Cancer Support   

Advice for people living with dementia and family carers 

The Alzheimer’s Society  

Dementia UK  

Advice for people living with lung disease 

The British Lung Foundation  

Advice for older people 

Age UK  

Malnutrition Task Force 

Wessex Academic Health Network

Eat Well Age Well which also has recipe ideas.

Advice to support Carers 

Carers UK

Carers Trust

Please let us know what you thought about the factsheets

Couldn’t find what you were looking for? Our team might be able to help - details of how to contact them below.

Contact the Patients Association helpline

The Patients Association offers a free national helpline providing specialist information and advice to help patients make sense of their health and social care.  

Patients can talk directly to trained advisers in strict confidence about any concerns, questions or general experiences they have regarding the NHS and social care systems.  

The helpline is open from 9.30 am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and calls outside these times are returned as soon as possible during opening hours. 

If you would like to contact the helpline, please call free on 0800 345 7115, or visit the Patients Association helpline page on our website for more information. 

Page published 11th October 2021, updated 11th November 2021; planned review of links March 2022; planned review of content April 2023.