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A Journal on Gastroenterology, Nutrition and Dietetics

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Minerva Gastroenterologica e Dietologica 2008 September;54(3):243-50


language: English

Evaluation of nutritional status and dietary intake in patients with advanced cancer on palliative care

Bovio G. 1, 2, Bettaglio R. 2, Bonetti G. 2, Miotti D. 2, Verni P. 2

1 Metabolic-Nutritional Unit Salvatore Maugeri Foundation I RCCS Rehabilitation Institute, Pavia, Italy 2 Palliative Care Unit Salvatore Maugeri Foundation IRCCS Rehabilitation Institute, Pavia, Italy


Aim. Cancer cachexia and malnutrition are very common in patients receiving palliative care. They cause a deterioration in the quality of life.
Methods. We studied 144 patients (52 females, 92 males) admitted to our Palliative Care Unit. Anthropometric measurements, food and nutritional intake, and plasma levels of few serum proteins were determined. Basal metabolic rate (BMR) was calculated.
Results. A body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 kg/m2 was observed in 23% of females and in 13% of males (P = NS). Twenty females (44%) and 52 males (63%) showed a weight loss of more than 10% over the 6-month period (P = 0.073). Ten females (19%) and 58 males (63%) had an arm muscle area (AMA) below the 5th percentile (P < 0.001), while 20 females (38%) and 21 males (23%) had an arm fat area (AFA) below the 5th percentile (P = 0.071). The daily calorie intake was below the BMR in 22 females (42%) and in 53 males (58%) (P = NS). Plasma levels of prealbumin, transferrin, and albumin were found below the normal range in more than 70% in both sexes.
Conclusion. Protein energy malnutrition can be easily detected by anthropometric and laboratory indexes. The larger percentage of males with a reduction in lean body mass compared to females could signify an advantage for females since lean body mass is preserved for longer in them. Patients with advanced cancer receiving palliative care should thus be evaluated routinely to assess their nutritional status in order to plan an adequate nutritional program when appropriate.

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