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Association of admission cortisol levels with outcomes and treatment response in patients at nutritional risk : A secondary analysis of a randomized clinical trial.

Nutrition Journal 2023 November 16
INTRODUCTION: Cortisol is a metabolically active stress hormone that may play a role in the pathogenesis of malnutrition. We studied the association between admission cortisol levels and nutritional parameters, disease severity, and response to nutritional support among medical inpatients at nutritional risk.

METHODS: Admission cortisol was measured in a subset of 764 patients participating in the Effect of Early Nutritional Support on Frailty, Functional Outcomes, and Recovery of Malnourished Medical Inpatients Trial (EFFORT), a multicentre, randomized-controlled trial that compared individualized nutritional support with usual nutritional care.

RESULTS: Overall, mean cortisol levels were 570 (± 293) nmol/L and significantly higher in patients with high nutritional risk (NRS ≥ 5) and in patients reporting loss of appetite. Cortisol levels in the highest quartile (> 723 nmol/l) were associated with adverse outcomes including mortality at 30 days and 5 years (adjusted HR 2.31, [95%CI 1.47 to 3.62], p = 0.001 and 1.51, [95%CI 1.23 to 1.87], p < 0.001). Nutritional treatment tended to be more effective regarding mortality reduction in patients with high vs. low cortisol levels (adjusted OR of nutritional support 0.54, [95%CI 0.24 to 1.24] vs. OR 1.11, [95%CI 0.6 to 2.04], p for interaction = 0.134). This effect was most pronounced in the subgroup of patients with severe malnutrition (NRS 2002 ≥ 5, p for interaction = 0.047).

CONCLUSION: This secondary analysis of a randomized nutritional trial suggests that cortisol levels are linked to nutritional and clinical outcome among multimorbid medical patients at nutritional risk and may help to improve risk assessment, as well as response to nutritional treatment.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Identifier: NCT02517476.

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