Intended for healthcare professionals


Malnutrition in hospitals

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 07 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:290
  1. Mike Lean, professor of human nutrition1,
  2. Martin Wiseman, visiting professor2
  1. 1Division of Developmental Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Royal Infirmary, Glasgow G31 2ER
  2. 2Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD
  1. lean{at}

    Still common because screening tools are underused and poorly enforced

    Malnutrition is a common cause and consequence of illness, particularly in older people. The number of malnourished people leaving NHS hospitals in England has risen by 85% over the past 10 years. It is still rising and reached almost 140 000 in 2006-7.1 Surveys elsewhere consistently find that about 20% of patients in general hospitals are malnourished (body mass index <18.5 (the World Health Organization 1995 cut off for malnutrition), or thin and losing weight, or both). Figures are higher if specific nutrient deficiencies or functional indications of malnutrition are included.

    Despite the frequency of malnutrition, it is undiagnosed in up to 70% of patients. This is partly because of the lack of simple laboratory tests, and because biochemical tests for nutritional status are difficult to interpret, particularly as they are often influenced by acute phase responses to …

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