Disease Related Malnutrition and a key role for medical nutrition

Medical nutrition has been shown to be a consideration for people dealing with sickness, surgery and for (ongoing) recovery.1 It plays a crucial role supporting the management of malnutrition, providing energy and nutrients, as well as supporting the immune system, particularly if you may be malnourished because of disease.2-9

Malnutrition and its role in disease

Malnutrition (meaning poor nutrition) is a serious condition that happens when your diet does not contain the right amount of energy and nutrients to cover daily needs. It can refer to both undernutrition – not getting enough nutrients and overnutrition – getting more nutrients than needed. Undernutrition is often linked to an underlying condition or disease.

Disease Related Malnutrition (DRM) is a condition characterized by inadequate intake of energy, protein, and/or micronutrients, that leads to altered body composition (decreased muscle mass), diminished physical and mental function and impaired clinical outcome from disease.10 This article focuses on disease related malnutrition.

Causes of Disease Related Malnutrition

Disease Related Malnutrition can arise for several reasons. The main causes include, amongst others, a disease, the inability to eat or swallow as a result of a medical condition or after surgery, decreased appetite, an allergy or inability to tolerate or metabolize an essential nutrient.

Who is at risk of malnutrition?

Many people who would benefit from medical nutrition may be particularly at risk of Disease Related Malnutrition (DRM). In Europe, 33 million adults are malnourished or at risk of DRM.

1 in 5
children admitted to hospital12

1 in 3
patients in care homes14

1 in 4
patients in hospital13-17

1 in 3
older people living independently21,22

1 in 3
cancer patients18-20

A proven solution in patients with DRM

For people fighting illness or living with long-term conditions, meeting nutritional needs with a normal diet may not be possible. The benefits of medical nutrition are well documented. Patients consuming medical nutrition have been shown to have better clinical outcomes (improvements to their health), spending up to 2 days less in hospital and experiencing an overall improved quality of life, compared to patients not receiving medical nutrition.1

Besides better patient outcomes, research also shows medical nutrition usage reduces healthcare costs. Disease Related Malnutrition is costing European countries €170 billion a year.11 The use of medical nutrition in hospital setting shows 12% average cost saving1 and use of oral nutritional supplements in the community led to 16.5% reduction in hospitalizations.23

Research has shown the life-changing and life-saving benefits of medical nutrition:

How do I know if medical nutrition is right for me?

Knowing about and being able to discuss the benefits of medical nutrition with your healthcare professional, is the first step you can take to reduce medical complications, support recovery and enable the best chance to live life to its fullest. If medical nutrition is appropriate as part of any treatment you may be receiving, is a decision that must always be made in consultation with a doctor or other healthcare professional, managing your own or a loved one’s care. It’s particularly important to always discuss if your appetite is reduced and/or if you are losing weight, as whatever age you may be: unintentional weight loss is never a normal part of life.

  1. Elia M. Clin Nutr, 2016;35(2):370-80
  2. Baldwin C, et al. J Natl Cancer Inst., 2012;104:371-85.
  3. de van der Schueren MAE, et al. Ann Oncol.,2018;29:1141-53.
  4. Odelli C, et al. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol)., 2005;17:639-45.
  5. Lee H, et al. Support Care Cancer,2008;16:285-9.
  6. De Waele, et al. Appetite, 2015;91:298-301.
  7. Stratton R, Green CME, Wallingford, UK, CABI. 2003.
  8. Milne AC, et al. Cochrane Database Syst Rev, 2009. CD003288.
  9. Cawood AL, et al. Proc Nutr Soc, 2010. 69.
  10.  Medical Nutrition Industry 
  11.  Ljungqvist O, et al. Nutr Hosp, 2009;24(3): 369-70.
  12.  Joosten KF, et al. Arch Dis Child, 2010; 95(2): 141-5.
  13.  LjungqvistO & de Man F. NutrHosp2009; 24(3):368-370.
  14.  Kaiser MJ et al. J Am Geriatr Soc 2010; 58(9):1734-1738.
  15.  Suominen MH et al. Eur J Clin Nutr 2009; 63(2):292-296.
  16.  Lelovics Z et al. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2009; 49(1):190-196.
  17.  Parsons EL et al. Proc Nutr Soc 2010; 69:E197.
  18.  Russell C, Elia M. Nutrition Screening Week in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2011. Hospitals, care homes and mental health units. Redditch, 2012.
  19.  Russell C, Elia M. Nutrition Screening Survey in the UK in 2008: Hospitals, Care Homes and Mental Health Units. Redditch, 2009.
  20.  Schindler K, et al. Clin Nutr, 2010; 29(5): 552-9.
  21.  Leij-Halfwerk, et al. Maturitas, 2019; 80-89
  22.  Cereda, et al. Clin Nutr. 2016; 35(6):1282-1290 
  23.  Elia M, Clin Nutr . 2016 Feb;35(1):125-137 
  24.  M. Elia; Clinical Nutrition Journal, 2015 
  25.  Elia M, Clin Nutr . 2016 Feb;35(1):125-137 
  26.  Smith TR et al. Nutrients 2020. Feb 18; 12(2):517
  27.  Baldwin et al, 2012 J Natl Cancer Inst;104(5):371-85 

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