Malnutrition is an imbalance of energy, protein and other nutrients that cause adverse effects on the body (size, shape and composition), the way in which it functions and clinical outcomes.1 The term can refer to under-nutrition (being under-weight or losing weight) or over-nutrition (being overweight or obese). For the purposes of this article, we are focusing on the issue of under-nutrition in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
According to the British Lung Foundation (BLF), approximately 1.2 million people in the UK are diagnosed with COPD.2 It is estimated, however, that more than 3 million people may live with the disease.3 Around 21% of outpatients with COPD (up to 630,000 people in the UK) are at risk of malnutrition4. Malnutrition may develop following periods of exacerbations or gradually over several years.
Community nurses play a vital role in the ongoing care of patients living with COPD, and are ideally placed to identify patients who are at risk of malnutrition and implement an appropriate nutritional care plan.
Causes of malnutrition
The causes of malnutrition in patients with COPD are varied, some of which are detailed in Table 1.