Energy expenditure and nutrient intake after spinal cord injury: a comprehensive review and practical recommendations

Br J Nutr. 2022 Sep 14;128(5):863-887. doi: 10.1017/S0007114521003822. Epub 2021 Sep 23.


Many persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) have one or more preventable chronic diseases related to excessive energetic intake and poor eating patterns. Appropriate nutrient consumption relative to need becomes a concern despite authoritative dietary recommendations from around the world. These recommendations were developed for the non-disabled population and do not account for the injury-induced changes in body composition, hypometabolic rate, hormonal dysregulation and nutrition status after SCI. Because evidence-based dietary reference intake values for SCI do not exist, ensuring appropriate consumption of macronutrient and micronutrients for their energy requirements becomes a challenge. In this compressive review, we briefly evaluate aspects of energy balance and appetite control relative to SCI. We report on the evidence regarding energy expenditure, nutrient intake and their relationship after SCI. We compare these data with several established nutritional guidelines from American Heart Association, Australian Dietary Guidelines, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intake, Public Health England Government Dietary Recommendations, WHO Healthy Diet and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Clinical Practice Guidelines. We also provide practical assessment and nutritional recommendations to facilitate a healthy dietary pattern after SCI. Because of a lack of strong SCI research, there are currently limited dietary recommendations outside of the PVA guidelines that capture the unique nutrient needs after SCI. Future multicentre clinical trials are needed to develop comprehensive, evidence-based dietary reference values specific for persons with SCI across the care continuum that rely on accurate, individual assessment of energy need.

Keywords: Alcohol; Carbohydrates; Diet; Energy expenditure; Energy intake; Fat; Fiber; Macronutrients; Micronutrients; Minerals; Nutrition; Protein; Spinal cord injury; Vitamins; energetic intake.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Eating
  • Energy Intake* / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Spinal Cord Injuries*