A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Nutritional Supplementation During Acute Illness

Salah Gariballa, Sarah Forster, Stephen Walters, Hilary Powers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The study tested whether nutritional support of older patients during acute illness leads to a clinical benefit. Methods: In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we randomly assigned 445 hospitalized patients aged 65 to 92 years to receive either a normal hospital diet plus 400 mL oral nutritional supplements (223 subjects) or a normal hospital diet plus a placebo (222 subjects) daily for 6 weeks. The composition of the supplement was such as to provide 995 kcal of energy and 100% of the Reference Nutrient Intakes for vitamins and minerals for a healthy older person. Patients had three assessments: at baseline, at 6 weeks, and at 6 months post-randomization. Outcome measures were 6 months of disability, non-elective readmission and length of hospital stay, discharge destination, morbidity, and mortality. Results: Randomization to the supplement group led to a significant improvement in nutritional status. Over 6 months, 65 patients (29%) in the supplements group were readmitted to the hospital compared with 89 patients (40%) in the placebo group (adjusted hazard ratio 0.68 [95% confidence interval 0.49-0.94]). The mean length of hospital stay was 9.4 days in the supplements group compared with 10.1 days in the placebo group. Thirty-two people (14%) died in the supplement group compared with 19 people (9%) in the placebo group at 6 months (adjusted hazard ratio 1.65 [95% confidence interval, 0.93-2.92]). Conclusion: Oral nutritional supplementation of acutely ill patients improved nutritional status and led to a statistically significant reduction in the number of non-elective readmissions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-699
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • Acute illness
  • Clinical outcome
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Readmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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