Do Oral Nutritional Supplements Lessen COPD Consequences?

Malnutrition is associated with a number of important health consequences in people with COPD, including a decline in lung and immune system function, strength, weight and body mass.  A recent study published in CHEST found that oral nutritional supplements may be an inexpensive way to reduce the length of hospital stay if you’re admitted for COPD. They may also prevent you from being readmitted soon after discharge, and may reduce your hospital costs.[1]

Study Results

The study included 378,419 hospitalized Medicare patients with a primary diagnosis of COPD. During their hospital stay, 10,322 patients received oral nutritional supplements and 368,097 patients did not. Study results revealed that oral nutritional supplements were associated with nearly a 2 day (21.5%) decrease in hospital length of stay, a 13.1% decrease in the probability of being readmitted within 30 days, and a $1570 (12.5%) reduction in hospital costs. Results of this win-win study reveal how management of malnutrition in people with chronic disease can improve their prognosis and reduce their hospital costs.

Who Should Drink Oral Nutritional Supplements?

The American Thoracic Society recommends oral nutritional supplements for anyone who’s unintentionally lost more than 10% of their body weight in the last 6 months, or more than 5% of their body weight in the last month. If this sounds like you, talk to your doctor as soon as possible about supplementing your diet before you lose any more weight.

Remember: nutritional supplements are meant to be used in addition to a healthy diet; they should not be used as a substitute for eating nutritious foods. Additionally, oral nutritional supplements should be combined with other methods of weight gain, such as supervised exercise training within the context of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.[2]

Which Oral Nutritional Supplement Should You Choose?

There are a number of oral nutritional supplements on the market today. Some are even covered by insurance. Which you choose will depend upon your needs and the recommendation of your doctor. Some that may sound familiar include:

  • Boost
  • Ensure
  • Pulmocare
  • Pro-Source
  • Nutren Pulmonary
  • Medtrition

Talk to your doctor today to see if an oral nutritional supplement is right for you.

[1] Thornton Snider J, et. al. “Effect of hospital use of oral nutritional supplementation on length of stay, hospital cost, and 30-day readmissions among Medicare patients with COPD.” Chest. 2014 Oct 30. doi: 10.1378/chest.14-1368. [Epub ahead of print].

[2] American Thoracic Society/European Respiratory Society Statement on Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2006;173:1390–1413.

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