Protein-calorie malnutrition (PCM) (also called protein-energy malnutrition or PEM) occurs when a child doesn’t eat enough protein and energy (measured by calories) to meet nutritional needs.
PCM most often occurs when both a child’s calorie and protein intake are inadequate. It can sometimes occur when a child only eats too little calories or only consumes too little protein, but this is rare.
PCM is a potentially life-threatening disorder.
PCM has several types, including:
Typically appears around one year of age when breastfeeding stops
Typically appears between six months to one year old in children who no longer breastfeed
This is the most severe form with obvious protein and calorie malnutrition. Symptoms can occur at any time. Children with this type have edema (fluid retention) and weigh below 60 percent of what is expected for their age.
Symptoms will vary, depending on the type, cause and age of the child. Symptoms may develop slowly, or come on rapidly.
PCM occurs for several medical reasons that can be present at birth or acquired (developed). Causes include: