kwashiorkor (kwăshˌēôrˈkôr) [key], 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 proteins 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.
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