Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Joint Symposium with the British Dietetic Association on ‘Implementing dietary change: theory and practice’ Session 1: Nutritional assessment

Problems of nutritional assessment in the acute setting

J. P. Baxtera1 c1

a1 Department of Digestive Diseases and Clinical Nutrition, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee DDl SSY, UK


Surveys have shown that 20–50 % of hospital admissions suffer from nutritional depletion and that there is failure to recognize its existence and significance. More emphasis must be placed in clinical medicine on identifying subjects who are at high risk of developing disease-related malnutrition. There is a need to screen patients on admission to hospital to identify those at risk of nutrition-related complications. More formal determination of nutritional status should be carried out to define the nutritional status of the patient and to monitor changes in nutritional status during nutritional support. The most frequently used tests of nutritional status include dietary, anthropometric, biochemical and functional indices of nutritional status. It is important, and indeed is the skill of the nutritional care team (particularly the dietitian) to be able to evaluate these measurements, as many of them are affected by non-nutritional factors. There is no consensus on the best method for the accurate assessment of nutritional status. Practical difficulties arise with individual measurements and in their interpretation in the acute setting. The aim of the present paper is to identify the most relevant variables to measure in clinical medicine, and to discuss the limitations of their use in the acute setting.


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Janet P. Baxter, fax +44 (0)1382 644972, email