Medical nutrition: Growing understanding of the significance among MDs, says ESPEN chairman

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04 Sep 2018 --- Growing clinical data is continuously underbuilding the importance of nutrition for clinical patients, prompting growing interaction between the medical and nutritional worlds, Professor André Van Gossum, M.D, European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) Chairman, tells NutritionInsight at the 40th edition of the Congress, dedicated to clinical nutrition and metabolism. To support patients, nutritional strategies should be offered at the different stages of their treatment, in combination with physical exercise, he says.

“For many years only a few people were convinced that nutrition and nutritional support for patients were important. It was difficult to convince colleagues and surgeons that nutrition is important, but now we have the data as well as what we have observed in clinical practice.”

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Professor André Van Gossum, M.D, ESPEN Chairman.

“In my own medical practice, I believe that my colleagues are much more concerned about the nutritional status of their patients. Even if they are not deeply involved in the field of medical nutrition, they have some concern. Many physicians and surgeons in different disciplines are now becoming convinced that their patients should be receiving nutritional support or therapy.” 

This is especially true for oncologists, he says. 

“This is because we have more and more new [radiation] therapies, patients have a larger chance of survival with a good quality of life. But assuring the quality of these treatments requires a good nutritional status,” he says, adding that oncology is just one example of the many medical areas that require proper nutrition, with surgical patients being another example.

“Medical nutrition should be seen as therapy, in parallel with other treatments. Patients should receive medical nutrition intervention before surgery, if they have any degree of malnutrition. They should also receive medical support after the surgery, always combined with physical activity,” he notes.

“Maintaining physical exercise is extremely important for improving the effect of nutritional support,” he says. “We need to protect proteins, muscles and [bodily] functions. That is the goal of nutrition.”

This year’s ESPEN Congress marked the 40th anniversary of the scientific meeting and carried the theme “Nutrition without borders” to express ESPEN’s desire to explore new topics in clinical nutrition and in different clinical settings, besides the multidisciplinary and worldwide environment of the Congress. 

“We are extremely pleased to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ESPEN Congress,” van Gossum says. “Over the past 40 years, the domain of clinical nutrition has been tremendously expanded. This society was mostly dedicated to parenteral nutrition and enteral nutrition, but we now also talk about obesity, sarcopenia as well as certain liver diseases related to nutrition.”

ESPEN promotes clinical research and education on all issues relevant to the field of clinical nutrition and metabolism, as well as the creation of consensus statements about clinical care and care quality control.

“ESPEN also aims to promote research by providing grants to investigators. It also encourages young people to be enthusiastic about this field. To do this, protocols are vital,” says van Gossum. “It is not so easy to design good protocols in the field of clinical nutrition. Patients can suffer from different diseases. As pharmaceutical treatments have strongly evolved and improved in the last few years, we always need to work in parallel with new therapies. One of ESPEN’s main objectives is education. [The society] also organizes symposiums on specific topics, as well as workshops and courses. Globally, scientific research, education and good clinical practice are ESPEN’s major objectives.”

By Lucy Gunn

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Van Gossum speaks during the opening session of the 40th ESPEN Congress in Madrid on Saturday.


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