Imbalanced Diet: Effects & Causes

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson discusses an imbalanced diet. You'll learn the nutrients that may be in excess or in deficiency, what the causes of an imbalanced diet may be, and the potential consequences of an imbalanced diet.

What is an Imbalanced Diet?

What do you eat on a regular basis? If your diet consists of a good mix of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and some form of protein, then it's likely that you're eating a healthy and balanced diet. If, however, your diet consists of potato chips and cookies, you're definitely eating an imbalanced (unbalanced) diet. An imbalanced diet is one that has an excess or deficiency of any dietary part, such as:

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

This lesson will go over some potential causes of an imbalanced diet as well as its consequences.


Meet Susan and Mike. Susan eats a lot of food. She overeats. Mike eats too little food. He's undereating. Which of them has an imbalanced diet? Trick question! Both are eating imbalanced diets. While Susan is getting too many calories by eating too much, Mike isn't getting enough calories because he's undereating. An inappropriate intake of calories (too much or too little) is one cause of an imbalanced diet.

What we don't know about Susan and Mike is what they eat. Mike could be undernourished from a caloric sense, but he might be getting an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals from eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Susan may be getting plenty of calories, but she may be eating the wrong type of food, maybe only junk food, which contains high amounts of fat and carbohydrates. In that case, even though she's eating more food than Mike, she's not getting nearly as wide of a variety of nutrients as he is. So, eating the wrong type of food (or mixture of foods) is another potential cause of a dietary imbalance.

The causes of dietary imbalances aren't limited to picking the wrong food or necessarily due to a lack of knowledge about what to eat. Susan and Mike may know exactly what to eat but still don't do it. Perhaps Susan has a binge eating disorder. On the other hand, Mike may be depressed and, as a potential consequence may be starving himself. In other words, psychiatric disorders can lead to imbalanced diets. Sometimes imbalanced diets can result from lack of availability of appropriate food or resources to obtain quality food as well.

For others, the imbalanced diet may stem from medical conditions. Some metabolic and endocrine conditions can severely curtail a person's general appetite or restrict their appetite to a select few foods, which can lead to a dietary imbalance.


As you can tell, the causes of an imbalanced diet range from just a lack of good knowledge on what to eat to stay healthy to potentially serious medical disorders to lack of available quality food. The consequences, in all of these cases, can range from almost nothing to life-threatening, depending on the exact cause and/or duration of the imbalanced diet, of course.

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