Interventions for malnutrition in hospitalized adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Hosp Med. 2022 Jul;17(7):556-564. doi: 10.1002/jhm.12891. Epub 2022 Jun 21.


Background: Malnutrition is associated with poor outcomes in hospitalized adults. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of hospital-initiated interventions for patients with malnutrition.

Methods: Data sources included MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library from January 1, 2000 to June 3, 2021. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) assessing interventions for hospitalized adults diagnosed or identified as at-risk for malnutrition using malnutrition screening and diagnostic assessment tools. Individual reviewers extracted study data and performed quality checks for accuracy. Meta-analysis was conducted using a random-effects model with variance correction. We assessed the overall strength of evidence at the outcome level. The risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias 2.0 tool.

Results: We found 11 RCTs that assessed two types of interventions: specialized nutrition care (8 RCTs) and increased protein provision (3 RCTs). The pooled findings of 11 RCTs found moderate strength of evidence that specialized nutrition care and increased protein provision reduced mortality by 21% (relative risk [RR]: 0.79, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.63-0.98; absolute risk reduction [ARR]: -0.02, 95% CI: -0.03 to -0.00). Pooled estimates indicated a nonsignificant decrease of 0.18 days in the length of stay (9 RCTs) and a 10% reduction in readmissions (7 RCTs). No eligible RCTs assessed parenteral or enteral nutrition.

Conclusion: Certain malnutrition-focused hospital-initiated interventions (e.g., specialized nutrition care and increased protein provision) reduce mortality and may improve the quality of life among patients at risk for or diagnosed with malnutrition. Future trials are needed to assess the effectiveness of parenteral and enteral nutrition.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition* / diagnosis
  • Malnutrition* / therapy
  • Parenteral Nutrition*
  • Quality of Life