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Nutr Clin Pract. 2006 Feb;21(1):68-81.

The origins of cachexia in acute and chronic inflammatory diseases.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Florida College of Medicine, Room 6116, Shands Hospital, 1600 SW Archer Road, Gainesville, Florida 32610, USA.


The term cachexia originates from the Greek root kakos hexis, which translates into "bad condition," recognized for centuries as a progressive deterioration of body habitus. Cachexia is commonly associated with a number of disease states, including acute inflammatory processes associated with critical illness and chronic inflammatory diseases, such as cancer, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and human immunodeficiency virus infection. Cachexia is responsible for the deaths of 10%-22% of all patients with cancer and approximately 15% of the trauma deaths that occur from sepsis-induced organ dysfunction and malnutrition days to weeks after the initial traumatic event. The abnormalities associated with cachexia include anorexia, weight loss, a preferential loss of somatic muscle and fat mass, altered hepatic glucose and lipid metabolism, and anemia. Anorexia alone cannot fully explain the development of cachexia; metabolic alterations in carbohydrate, lipid, and protein metabolism contribute to the severe tissue losses. Despite significant advances in our understanding of specific disease processes, the mechanisms leading to cachexia remain unclear and multifactorial. Although complex, increasing evidence from both animal models and clinical studies suggests that an inflammatory response, mediated in part by a dysregulated production of proinflammatory cytokines, plays a role in the genesis of cachexia, associated with both critical illness and chronic inflammatory diseases. These cytokines are further thought to induce an acute phase protein response (APR) and produce the alterations in lipid and carbohydrate metabolism identified as crucial markers of acute inflammation in states of malignancy and critical illness. Although much is still unknown about the etiology of cachexia, there is growing appreciation that cachexia represents the endproduct of an inappropriate interplay between multiple cytokines, neuropeptides, classic stress hormones, and intermediary substrate metabolism.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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