Nutritional supplements can help patients gain weight, raise CD4 counts

Michael Greer, Senior Medical Writer for AIDSWEEKLY Plus

Nutritional supplements enriched with peptides and some fatty acids can help HIV patients gain weight while improving immune function, researchers in Spain report.

“Dietary counselling and intervention based on application of conventional criteria have been ineffective in preventing the progressive weight loss associated with HIV infection,” according to Dr DA de Luis Roman and colleagues at Rio Hortega University Hospital in Valladolid.

A formula with high levels of n-3 fatty acids reversed HIV related weight loss and significantly raised CD4+ T cell levels, de Luis Roman and colleagues found.

They compared the benefits provided by standard enteral nutritional formulas with those of an enterotropic, peptide-based formula rich in n-3 fatty acids, according to their report. These fatty acids are known to improve coronary function and are thought to play a role in cognitive development as well.

Both standard and enriched supplements produced significant weight gains of roughly 3%, mostly in the form of increased fat mass. The peptide-based formula also produced a significant and persistent increase in CD4+ T cell counts, which was not seen after treatment with conventional formula, study data showed.

Patients who received the enriched formula were also less likely to contract infections requiring hospitalisation although the difference between groups was not statistically significant.

“Oral nutritional supplements for a three-month period were well tolerated and resulted in body weight gain in HIV-infected patients,” de Luis Roman and colleagues concluded. “Supplement-enriched formula, with peptides and n-3 fatty acids, increased CD4 count.”

The corresponding author for this report is Dr DA de Luis Roman, Endocrinologia y Nutricion, Director Ejecutivo IEN, Facultad de Medicina, H Universitario Rio Hortega, Caamano 51 bis, 3C, Valladolid 47013, Spain. E-mail:


de Luis Roman DA et al. Nutritional treatment for acquired immunodeficiency virus infection using an enterotropic peptide-based formula enriched with n-3 fatty acids: A randomised prospective trial, Eur J Clin Nutr 2001 Dec;55(12):1048-52.

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