When you are lying in a hospital bed, chances are that making sure you receive adequate nutrition from protein is not top of mind for you. Unfortunately, it might not be top of mind for your care team either.
“With so much else going on in the hospital, it is understandable that nutrition might take a backseat,” says Carol Siegel, Head of US Medical Affairs at Nestlé Health Science. “But proper nutrition, particularly the right level of protein, can make a big difference in your recovery.”
Poor protein nutrition creates long-term issues
There are significant consequences to not getting the protein you need while hospitalized, ranging from higher infection rates to longer hospital stays. Unfortunately, malnutrition is a relatively common and growing problem among hospitalized patients.1
“Getting adequate protein is particularly important,” says Siegel. “Up to 30%, or even more, of all patients in hospitals have significant protein malnutrition.2”
Good protein nutrition reduces the risk of losing muscle mass
Lying in a hospital bed causes a loss of muscle mass, which is associated with increases in morbidity (disease) and death. In fact, loss of muscle mass is one of the most important and frequent problems in the ICU.3
And a loss of muscle mass is not just limited to critically-ill patients. In a study of healthy older adults, just 10 days of bed rest resulted in a 0.95 kg (about 2 pounds) loss of lean muscle mass.4
Getting adequate protein nutrition is key to maintaining muscle mass. “When you are ill, your body is less able to turn dietary protein into muscle mass, so you need more high-quality protein to help stave off a loss of muscle mass,” says Siegel. And bulking up on non-protein calories won’t do the trick. According to Siegel, “Multiple studies where people have met their caloric goals, without a specific emphasis on getting enough protein, have failed to show a benefit in critically-ill patients.2”
How to make sure you get the protein nutrition you need
The key to getting enough protein nutrition in the hospital includes partnering with your doctor and the rest of your care team. Hospitals have Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) on staff available who can provide individualized recommendations. Take the initiative to ask your doctor about the special nutritional needs of hospitalized patients. For example, ask your doctor or RDN if you could benefit from a high protein oral supplement like BOOST® High Protein Nutritional Drink with 15 grams of protein.
In some cases, your doctor may decide to provide you nourishment through a feeding tube, using a high-protein Peptamen® formula. Either way, it is important to make sure you get the protein you need while in the hospital.
- Corkins MR, et al. Malnutrition Diagnoses in Hospitalized Patients: United States, 2010. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 2014; 38(2):186–195.
- Ochoa JB, et al. How much and what type of protein should a critically ill patient receive?, Nutrition in Clinical Practice 2017; (32): 6S-14S.
- Nanas S, Kritikos K, Angelopoulos E, Siafaka A, Tsikriki S, Poriazi M, et al. Predisposing factors for critical illness polyneuromyopathy in a multidisciplinary intensive care unit. Acta Neurol Scand. 2008;118(3):175–81.
- Kortebein, et al. The Effect of 10 Days of Bed Rest on Skeletal Muscle in Healthy Older Adults. JAMA. 2007; 297(16):1769-1774. doi:10.1001/jama.297.16.1772-b.