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Nutritional therapy and infectious diseases: a two-edged sword

Haig Donabedian

Author affiliations

Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Toledo, 3120 Glendale Avenue, Toledo, OH 43614, USA

Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2006, 5:21  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-5-21

Published: 4 September 2006


The benefits and risks of nutritional therapies in the prevention and management of infectious diseases in the developed world are reviewed. There is strong evidence that early enteral feeding of patients prevents infections in a variety of traumatic and surgical illnesses. There is, however, little support for similar early feeding in medical illnesses. Parenteral nutrition increases the risk of infection when compared to enteral feeding or delayed nutrition. The use of gastric feedings appears to be as safe and effective as small bowel feedings. Dietary supplementation with glutamine appears to lower the risk of post-surgical infections and the ingestion of cranberry products has value in preventing urinary tract infections in women.