Intervention to prevent malnutrition

The effect of interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition in patients admitted for rehabilitation: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Collins and Porter. JHND Early View


Malnutrition occurs frequently among patients in rehabilitation, leading to poorer outcomes. Evidence of the effects of interventions to prevent or treat malnutrition is required to guide clinical practice in this setting. This systematic review aimed to determine the effect of oral nutrition interventions implemented in rehabilitation on nutritional and functional outcomes.


Five databases were searched to identify relevant publications; intervention trials of oral nutrition interventions (such as oral nutrition supplements, foodservice interventions, clinical care processes, enhanced eating environments) conducted with patients admitted for rehabilitation, reporting dietary intake, anthropometric, biochemical or functional outcomes. The reviewers determined study eligibility and assessed the included studies for risk of bias. Outcome data were combined narratively and by meta-analyses.


From 1765 publications, 10 studies trialling oral nutrition supplements, foodservice interventions and clinical care processes (of neutral or positive quality) were identified. Compared to meals alone, oral nutritional supplements significantly improved energy and protein intake, with some evidence for improvements in anthropometry and length of stay. There was little evidence that speciality supplements were beneficial compared to standard versions. Meta-analyses demonstrated significantly greater energy [weighted mean difference (WMD) = 324 kcal, 212–436 kcal 95% confidence interval (CI)] and protein (WMD = 9.1 g, 0.2–17.9 g 95% CI) intake with energy dense meals. Opposing results were reported in studies investigating enhanced clinical care processes.


The provision of oral nutrition supplements and energy dense meals improved energy and protein intake and therefore may comprise effective strategies for addressing malnutrition in rehabilitation. The effect of these strategies on other nutritional and functional outcomes should be explored further.



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