Muscle sufficiency was significantly lower in 1336 children with chronic malnutrition of moderate to severe degree. Eighteen children with a chronic moderate degree of malnutrition and 8 well-nourished, age-matched controls were selected for biochemical and 31-phosphorus magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31-P MRS) studies. The results showed that: (a) serum total protein, albumin, iron, calcium and inorganic phosphate were similar in both groups; (b) serum enzyme levels were significantly increased in the malnourished group; (c) 31-P MRS showed significantly higher means for total ATP, beta-ATP, alpha-ATP and inorganic phosphate for the malnourished compared to the control group. In chronic malnutrition, proteins are maintained by degradation in muscle resulting in release of amino acids and enzymes. 31-P MRS studies showing increases in total ATP, beta-ATP and inorganic phosphate and a decrease in phosphocreatine suggest that ATP is maintained at the cost of phosphocreatine.