Nutritional Status Assessment in Adults

Updated: Sep 22, 2015
  • Author: W Aaron Hood, DO; Chief Editor: Vikram Kate, MBBS, MS, PhD, FRCS, FACS, FACG, FRCS(Edin), FRCS(Glasg), FIMSA, MAMS, MASCRS, FFST(Ed)  more...
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An assessment of nutritional status in adults may include a comprehensive evaluation consisting of a tailored history and physical examination, laboratory assessment, anthropometrics, body composition, and functional data. [1, 2]

No single variable accurately and reliably relays nutritional status of a subject in every situation. Validated screening tools are available for use in certain populations.

Poor nutritional status has been known to have unfavorable effects. Individuals with less than 80% expected total body protein levels have demonstrated increased morbidity, and 10% or greater unintentional weight loss has been associated with adverse outcomes and prolonged hospitalizations. In lean healthy subjects, weight loss over 35%, protein loss over 30%, and fat loss over 70% from baseline has been associated with death. [3]



Measurement of nutritional status in adults has no absolute indications. The importance of nutritional assessment becomes apparent during acute illness, in which malnutrition has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Identification of malnourishment and appropriate intervention may improve outcomes.



Assessment of nutritional status in adults has no specific contraindications. However, owing to the cooperation required, hydrodensitometry may not be suitable for subjects who are physically challenged, children, or elderly persons. Additionally, bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) should not be performed in subjects with pacemakers.