Fidanza University of Rome Tor Vergata Rome

Italy

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Biochemical methods are considered to be the most objective measures for the assessment of nutritional status of the individual. The method employed should cover a range of cutoff points specific and sensitive to depletion of the nutrient body pool or tissue store.

The evolution of deficiency for most nutrients, particularly vitamins, progresses in successive stages. The first stage of deficiency is when nutrient body stores begin to be depleted; in this stage, nutrient urine excretion decreases, whereas homeostatic regulation ensures that the level of nutrient in the blood does not change. In the next stage, depletion is more marked; nutrient urinary excretion continues to decrease and its blood and other tissue concentrations are reduced.

A lowering of nutrient metabolites and/or dependent enzymes often characterizes the following stage. Sometimes, lower hormone concentrations and some physiological alterations are observed. In the last stages, morphological and/or functional disturbances are present; at first they are reversible, and then they become irreversible. Nonspecific signs and symptoms can be present; without therapeutic intervention, death can be expected.

Within the framework of the evolution of nutrient deficiencies, the biochemical static and functional tests most commonly used in nutritional status assessment in humans are discussed here.

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