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Open Access Research

Impact of nutritional supplementation on immune response, body mass index and bioelectrical impedance in HIV-positive patients starting antiretroviral therapy

Denise Evans1*, Lynne McNamara2, Mhairi Maskew1, Katerina Selibas2, Desiree van Amsterdam2, Nicola Baines2, Tracey Webster2 and Ian Sanne23

Author affiliations

1 Health Economics and Epidemiology Research Office, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

2 Clinical HIV Research Unit, Department of Internal Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

3 Right to Care, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:111  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-111

Published: 6 August 2013

Abstract

Background

Challenges to HIV care in resource limited settings (RLS) include malnutrition. Limited evidence supports the benefit of nutritional supplementation when starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) in RLS.

Methods

Randomized controlled pilot study. HIV-positive ART-naive adults with self-reported weight loss were randomized to receive ART plus FutureLife porridge® nutritional supplement (NS) (388 kcal/day) or ART alone (Controls) for 6 months. Patients returned for monthly assessments and blood was drawn at enrolment and 6 months on ART. Differences in body composition, biochemical and laboratory parameters were estimated at 6 months on treatment.

Results

Of the 36 randomized patients, 26 completed the 6 month follow-up (11 NS vs 15 Controls). At enrolment, groups were similar in terms of age, gender, body mass index (BMI) and bioelectrical impedance. NS patients had a lower median CD4 count (60 cells/mm3 [IQR 12–105 vs 107 cells/mm3 [IQR 63–165]; p = 0.149) and hemoglobin (10.3 g/dL [IQR 9.0-11.3] vs 13.1 g/dL [IQR 11.1-14.7]; p = 0.001).

At 6 months, NS patients increased their median CD4 count by 151 cells/mm3 [IQR 120–174) vs 77 cells/mm3 [IQR 33–145] in the Controls. NS patients had higher mean percentage change in body weight (12.7% vs 4.9%; p = 0.047), BMI (7.8% vs 5.5%; p = 0.007), absolute CD4 count (83.0% vs 46.4%, p = 0.002) and hemoglobin (9.5% vs 1.0%; p = 0.026). Patients in the NS arm had a higher mean percentage fat-free mass (16.7% vs −3.5%, p = 0.036), total body water (13.0% vs −1.9%, p = 0.026), intracellular water (16.1% vs −4.1%, p = 0.010) and basal metabolic rate (5.3% vs −0.2%, p = 0.014) compared to Controls. Patients in the NS arm also showed an improvement in physical activity at 6 months post-ART initiation compared to Controls (p = 0.037).

Conclusion

Preliminary results are encouraging and suggest that NS taken concurrently with ART can promote weight gain, improve immune response and improve physical activity in HIV-positive patients that present at ART initiation with weight loss.

Keywords:
Nutritional supplement; Antiretroviral therapy; Human immunodeficiency virus; Treatment outcomes