The role of low-carbohydrate diets in the intensive care unit

Nutr Health. 2023 Jan 2;2601060221149088. doi: 10.1177/02601060221149088. Online ahead of print.


Low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) nutrition therapy is characterized by carbohydrates comprising <26% of the daily caloric intake and a higher proportion of fat. LCHF therapies reduce exogenous glucose load, improve glycemic control, decrease inflammation, and improve clinical outcomes such as respiratory function. Given the altered metabolism in critically ill patients, LCHF nutrition therapy may be especially beneficial as it enables the conservation of protein and glucose for metabolic roles beyond energy use. In critical illness, LCHF diets have the potential to reduce hyperglycemia, improve ventilation, decrease hospital length of stay and reduce hospital costs. The purpose of this commentary piece is to describe LCHF nutrition therapy, summarize its impact on health outcomes, and discuss its role in the intensive care unit (ICU). Additional research on the effects of LCHF nutrition therapy on critically ill patients is warranted, including a focus on COVID-19.

Keywords: critical illness; high-fat; inflammation; intensive care unit; low-carbohydrate.