SEVEN times as many people were admitted to hospital in Bolton suffering from malnutrition in 2012 as there were in 2008.
The latest figures show there were 70 instances of people seeking medical help due to a lack of food or poor diet.
Just 10 people needed help for health problems caused by malnutrition four years earlier.
Health bosses warned poor diet was evident in the number of people who suffer from diabetes and heart disease in the town — and said malnutrition was a major factor in Bolton’s low life expectancy.
Dr Stephen Liversedge, NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group’s clinical director for primary care and health improvement, said: “Malnutrition can be caused by eating the wrong food as well as not eating enough. Foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt and calories should be consumed only in small amounts.
“It is vitally important that we all eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables.”
Neither Bolton Council nor the Royal Bolton Hospital could give a reason for the rise. A council spokesman said the problem was as much an educational one as it is to do with poverty.
There were nearly 400 admissions for malnutrition across the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs, a figure which has risen from 158 in 2008.
Poverty groups believe soaring bills, unemployment, and welfare reforms could be forcing households to cut food spending — meaning some people are going hungry to make ends meet.
Bolton Council said it was able to identify and tackle malnutrition problems, and that eating a nutritionally adequate diet was essential for residents’ long-term health.
A spokesman said: “We advocate healthy eating from an early age, though schemes such as the healthy early years setting award which encourages nurseries to provide healthier food options.
“In schools, we have made our nutritionally balanced meals as accessible as possible by pricing them the cheapest in the country at £1.25.
“We’ve also launched Food Dudes in Kearsley West Primary School, which encourages children to tuck into the meals containing the right amount of vitamins and minerals.”
Adults have access to programmes like the Wellbeing project at Bolton Market and other cooking and life skills courses throughout the borough.
Older residents who could be at risk of malnutrition are also targeted through the council’s Staying Well project, which offers help and advice.
The spokesman said: “We have launched a £1 million anti-poverty fund, which aims to support families in crisis and immediate need, as well as putting in place the infrastructure to stop people being in need.”
Families in crisis can apply to the council’s local welfare provision, which offers money advice, as well as the provision of food packages, utility bill payments and the procurement of household items.
Residents can apply directly on 01204 332772.
INADEQUATE DIET IS ROOT CAUSE
- Malnutrition is a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients.
- It is estimated there are about 3 million people who are malnourished in the UK at any time and many more at risk of becoming malnourished.
- Around one in three people admitted to hospital or care homes in the UK are found to be malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.
- Malnutrition is caused by either an inadequate diet or a problem absorbing nutrients.
- The most common symptom of undernutrition is unplanned weight loss.
- Other signs can include: weak muscles, feeling tired all the time, low mood and an increase in illnesses or infections.
- Signs of malnutrition in children can include: failure to grow at the expected rate; changes in behaviour such as appearing unusually irritable, sluggish or anxious.
- The main treatment for people diagnosed with malnutrition is dietary changes.
- For more information visit nhs.uk