Malnutrition, muscle, wasting and cachexia in chronic heart failure: The nutritional approach

Evasio Pasini*, Roberto Aquilani, Mihai Gheorghiade, Francesco Saverio Dioguardi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Malnutrition, muscle wasting and cachexia are often present in chronic heart failure (CHF). However, malnutrition in CHF patients is not always as severe as muscle wasting. Data in the literature show that 24% of CHF patients have malnutrition (albumin < 3.5 mg/dl) but 68% have muscle atrophy. This apparent discrepancy can be explained by considering the metabolic role of the striate muscle. In fact, the striate muscle maintains the body metabolic performance by continuous exchanges of fuels (amino acids) with the liver. This happens in case of malnutrition or starvation. In such situations, glucose is produced by gluconeogenesis when amino acids are metabolized in the liver. Malnutrition, muscle wasting and the frequent progression through cachexia can be reduced by specific therapy such as cytokine and/or catabolic hormone antagonists. This is because cytokines and catabolic hormones, with consequent insulin resistance, cause muscle wasting. An alternative and/or complementary therapy may be exogenous amino acid supplementation. In fact, amino acids: a) are rapidly absorbed regardless of pancreatic activity, b) reduce insulin resistance, c) induce the hepatic synthesis of anabolic molecules such as growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor, and d) modulate the catabolic hormonal-mediated effects on adipocytes. Research on the best suitable qualitative and quantitative amino acid composition for an alternative and/or complementary therapy is still being studied in different research centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-235
Number of pages4
JournalItalian Heart Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2003


  • Heart failure
  • Muscles
  • Nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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