Excessive weight loss can be a bad thing

Jan 21, 2009

Doctors are not doing enough to pick up on problems with excessive weight loss, says a Saint Louis University physician who helped draft recent guidelines to diagnose the condition called "cachexia" (kuh-kex-ee-uh).

"In sick people, weight loss is an important indicator of disease and potentially impending death," said John Morley, M.D., an endocrinologist and director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

"Cachexia is an extraordinary problem for people who are having other health problems, yet this is something that many physicians don't pay attention to."

A group of physicians and scientists agreed on a definition of cachexia, which was published in the December edition of the medical journal, Clinical Nutrition.

"The definition is important because it gives physicians the guidelines to make a diagnosis and treat the condition," Morley said. "A definition of cachexia also makes it easier for scientists to conduct research and potentially develop new therapies for the problem."

About half of hospitalized patients and between 10 and 15 percent of sick patients who see a doctor have cachexia. The condition accompanies diseases such as cancer, congestive heart failure, HIV, diabetes, kidney failure and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Adults with cachexia lose weight and children don't grow. Muscle mass melts away, and those with cachexia also may lose fat.

Those who traditionally have had difficulty taking off weight and suddenly find the pounds melting off should beware, Morley said. They may be ill and could get even sicker as they become weaker and weaker.

"Cachexia should be seen as a wasting disease that requires specialized treatment from a physician who is familiar with the problem," Morley said.

The researchers clarified the definition of cachexia by noting it is always linked to an underlying disease. They differentiated it from starvation; loss of muscle mass that comes with aging; depression; thyroid problems; and the body's difficulty in absorbing nutrients. Rather, cachexia is a complicated metabolic syndrome that is often associated with anorexia, inflammation, insulin resistance and increased muscle protein breakdown.

Source: Saint Louis University

Explore further: Jamaica Senate starts debate on pot decriminalization bill

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Weight Watchers: Shed the pounds but lose your friends?

Jan 21, 2015

If you're trying to lose weight, Weight Watchers might seem like the ideal place to share advice and get support. While this may be true when you first join, a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows you'll bond l ...

Graphene multiplies the power of light

Jan 19, 2015

Could graphene turn light to electricity? Scientists have shown that graphene can convert a single photon into multiple electrons, showing much promise for future photovoltaic devices.

Recommended for you

Jamaica Senate starts debate on pot decriminalization bill

11 hours ago

Jamaica's Senate on Friday started debating a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot and establish a licensing agency to regulate a lawful medical marijuana industry on the island where the drug ...

Can Lean Management improve hospitals?

18 hours ago

Waiting times in hospital emergency departments could be cut with the introduction of Lean Management and Six Sigma techniques according to new research.

Research finds 90 percent of home chefs contaminate food

18 hours ago

If you're gearing up for a big Super Bowl bash, you might want to consult the best food-handling practices before preparing that feast. New research from Kansas State University finds that most home chefs drop the ball on ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Icester
1 / 5 (1) Jan 21, 2009
This just in...

Dying may be bad for your health.

Congratulations Physorg on another "Mr. Obvious" story.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.