Murch SH, Walker-Smith JA. University Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Royal Free Hospital, London, UK. Nutrition is clearly disturbed by active intestinal inflammation.
Appetite is reduced, yet energy substrates are diverted into the inflammatory process, and thus weight loss is characteristic. The nutritional disturbance represents part of a profound defect of somatic function. Linear growth and pubertal development in children are notably retarded, body composition is altered, and there may be significant psychosocial disturbance. Macrophage products such as tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukins-1 and 6 may be the central molecules that link the inflammatory process to this derangement of homeostasis.
Intriguingly, there is also increasing evidence that an aggressive nutritional programme may in itself be sufficient to reduce the mucosal inflammatory response. Recent evidence suggests that enteral nutrition alone may reduce many pro-inflammatory cytokines to normal and allow mucosal healing. In addition, specific nutritional components, such as n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, may have an anti-inflammatory effect as they may alter the pattern of leukotrienes generated during the immune response. The recent discovery of the specific molecular mediators of appetite and body composition, such as leptin and myostatin, may allow increased therapeutic specificity and further improvement in the nutritional treatment of the inflammatory bowel diseases.