Catabolic response to stress and potential benefits of nutrition support

Curtis J. Wray, Joshua M.V. Mammen, Per Olof Hasselgren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


The catabolic response to sepsis, severe injury, and burn is characterized by whole-body protein loss, mainly reflecting increased breakdown of muscle proteins, in particular myofibrillar proteins. Glucocorticoids and various proinflammatory cytokines are important regulators of muscle proteolysis in stressed patients. There is evidence that breakdown of proteins by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway plays an important role in muscle cachexia, although other mechanisms may participate, such as calcium- and calpain-dependent release of myofilaments from the sarcomere. Three types of treatments have been used to reduce or prevent the catabolic response to injury and sepsis: 1) nutritional, 2) hormonal, and 3) pharmacologic. With regard to nutrition support, it is generally believed that enteral feeding is superior to parenteral feeding and that early feeding is better than late feeding. Although "immune-enhancing" enteral nutrition has been shown in several recent studies to improve outcome in critically ill patients, the specific effects of these treatments on the catabolic response in muscle are not known. In addition to nutrition support, various hormones, including insulin, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1, may blunt the catabolic response in patients with stress. Experimental studies have indicated that other treatments may become available in the future, including cytokine antibodies, calcium antagonists, and induction of heat shock response. Methods to prevent or reduce the catabolic response to stress are important considering the significant clinical consequences of muscle cachexia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)971-977
Number of pages7
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Nov 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Cachexia
  • Hormones
  • Injury
  • Muscle
  • Nutrition
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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