In this study, plasma free carnitine and albumin levels were measured in children with protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). A total of 71 children with malnutrition were studied. The control group consisted of 20 healthy children. The mean plasma carnitine level was 78.4 +/- 1.94 nmol/ml in the control group. Marasmus and kwashiorkor patients displayed lower plasma free carnitine values, which were found to be statistically significant when compared to those of the control (P < 0.001). However, the values were significantly lower in kwashiorkor patients than in marasmic cases (29.7 > 5.46). There was no correlation between serum albumin and free carnitine levels in cases with kwashiorkor.