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Semin Oncol. 1990 Dec;17(6 Suppl 9):17-33.

Current approach to the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus-associated weight loss: pathophysiologic considerations and emerging management strategies.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of California, Berkeley 94720.


Relationships between nutrition and infection are generally complex, bidirectional, and not perfectly worked out. Healthy people can adapt to simple decreases in intake or increases in expenditure. However, the imposition of infection with associated cytokines may impair such adaptations, resulting in wasting of lean tissue. In human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, nutritional abnormalities are common. Lean body mass depletion is associated temporally with death in a subset of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients. Weakness, fatigue, and anorexia are important symptomatic complaints affecting quality of life. Pathophysiologic mechanisms remain speculative, although there is reason to suspect four theoretic factors: decreased intake, malabsorption, hypermetabolism, and altered metabolism. More than one disturbance may be necessary for clinical wasting to develop; ie, a primary abnormality plus a failure of homeostatic adaptation. Excess cytokine production also may be involved, but this is uncertain. Therapeutics remain empiric in the absence of known mechanisms. Current options are restricted to diet adjustments or supplements, treatment of underlying diseases (where possible), and rarely, parenteral alimentation. Promising investigational possibilities include an appetite stimulant (megestrol acetate) and therapies to oppose cytokine production or actions, but definitive beneficial effects on nutritional status, subjective performance, disease activity, or survival have not yet been demonstrated. Advances in clinical therapeutics await an improved understanding of pathophysiologic mechanisms and carefully designed clinical trials testing proposed interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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