Hepatic proteins and nutrition assessment

J Am Diet Assoc. 2004 Aug;104(8):1258-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2004.05.213.


Serum hepatic protein (albumin, transferrin, and prealbumin) levels have historically been linked in clinical practice to nutritional status. This paradigm can be traced to two conventional categories of malnutrition: kwashiorkor and marasmus. Explanations for both of these conditions evolved before knowledge of the inflammatory processes of acute and chronic illness were known. Substantial literature on the inflammatory process and its effects on hepatic protein metabolism has replaced previous reports suggesting that nutritional status and protein intake are the significant correlates with serum hepatic protein levels. Compelling evidence suggests that serum hepatic protein levels correlate with morbidity and mortality. Thus, serum hepatic protein levels are useful indicators of severity of illness. They help identify those who are the most likely to develop malnutrition, even if well nourished prior to trauma or the onset of illness. Furthermore, hepatic protein levels do not accurately measure nutritional repletion. Low serum levels indicate that a patient is very ill and probably requires aggressive and closely monitored medical nutrition therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Kwashiorkor / blood*
  • Kwashiorkor / diagnosis
  • Kwashiorkor / etiology
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Prealbumin / analysis
  • Prealbumin / metabolism
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / blood*
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / diagnosis
  • Protein-Energy Malnutrition / etiology
  • Serum Albumin / analysis*
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Transferrin / analysis*
  • Transferrin / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Prealbumin
  • Serum Albumin
  • Transferrin