Chronic diseases as well as aging are frequently associated with deterioration of nutritional status, loss muscle mass and function (i.e. sarcopenia), impaired quality of life and increased risk for morbidity and mortality. Although simple and effective tools for the accurate screening, diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition have been developed during the recent years, its prevalence still remains disappointingly high and its impact on morbidity, mortality and quality of life clinically significant. Based on these premises, the Special Interest Group (SIG) on cachexia-anorexia in chronic wasting diseases was created within ESPEN with the aim of developing and spreading the knowledge on the basic and clinical aspects of cachexia and anorexia as well as of increasing the awareness of cachexia among health professionals and care givers. The definition, the assessment and the staging of cachexia, were identified as a priority by the SIG. This consensus paper reports the definition of cachexia, pre-cachexia and sarcopenia as well as the criteria for the differentiation between cachexia and other conditions associated with sarcopenia, which have been developed in cooperation with the ESPEN SIG on nutrition in geriatrics.
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