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J Adolesc Health. 2013 Nov;53(5):573-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.05.014. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Higher caloric intake in hospitalized adolescents with anorexia nervosa is associated with reduced length of stay and no increased rate of refeeding syndrome.

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Division of Adolescent Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California. Electronic address:

Erratum in

  • J Adolesc Health. 2014 Jan;54(1):116.



To determine the effect of higher caloric intake on weight gain, length of stay (LOS), and incidence of hypophosphatemia, hypomagnesemia, and hypokalemia in adolescents hospitalized with anorexia nervosa.


Electronic medical records of all subjects 10-21 years of age with anorexia nervosa, first admitted to a tertiary children's hospital from Jan 2007 to Dec 2011, were retrospectively reviewed. Demographic factors, anthropometric measures, incidence of hypophosphatemia (≤3.0 mg/dL), hypomagnesemia (≤1.7 mg/dL), and hypokalemia (≤3.5 mEq/L), and daily change in percent median body mass index (BMI) (%mBMI) from baseline were recorded. Subjects started on higher-calorie diets (≥1,400 kcal/d) were compared with those started on lower-calorie diets (<1,400 kcal/d).


A total of 310 subjects met eligibility criteria (age, 16.1 ± 2.3 years; 88.4% female, 78.5 ± 8.3 %mBMI), including 88 in the lower-calorie group (1,163 ± 107 kcal/d; range, 720-1,320 kcal/d) and 222 in the higher-calorie group (1,557 ± 265 kcal/d; range, 1,400-2,800 kcal/d). Neither group had initial weight loss. The %mBMI increased significantly (p < .001) from baseline by day 1 in the higher-calorie group and day 2 in the lower-calorie group. Compared with the lower-calorie group, the higher-calorie group had reduced LOS (13.0 ± 7.3 days versus 16.6 ± 9.0 days; p < .0001), but the groups did not differ in rate of change in %mBMI (p = .50) or rates of hypophosphatemia (p = .49), hypomagnesemia (p = 1.0), or hypokalemia (p = .35). Hypophosphatemia was associated with %mBMI on admission (p = .004) but not caloric intake (p = .14).


A higher caloric diet on admission is associated with reduced LOS, but not increased rate of weight gain or rates of hypophosphatemia, hypomagnesemia, or hypokalemia. Refeeding hypophosphatemia depends on the degree of malnutrition but not prescribed caloric intake, within the range studied.


Anorexia nervosa; Hypokalemia; Hypomagnesemia; Hypophosphatemia; Refeeding syndrome

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