The relationship between nutrition and wound healing--after injury or surgical intervention--has been recognized for centuries. There is no doubt that adequate carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake is required for healing to take place, but research in the laboratory has suggested that other specific nutritional interventions can have significant beneficial effects on wound healing. Successful translation into the clinical arena, however, has been rare. A review of normal metabolism as it relates to wound healing in normoglycemic and diabetic individuals is presented. This is followed by an assessment of the current literature and the data that support and refute the use of specialized nutritional support in postoperative and wounded patients. The experimental evidence for the use of arginine, glutamine, vitamins, and micronutrient supplementation is described. Most of the experimental evidence in the field supporting the use of specialized nutritional support has not been borne out by clinical investigation. A summary of the clinical implications of the data is presented, with the acknowledgment that each patient's plan of care must be individualized to optimize the relationship between nutrition and wound healing.