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Nutritional Support (General)

Supplement Forms/Alternate Names

Vitamins and Minerals (General)


Nutritional support refers to taking many vitamins and supplements. It has been used to promote healing and strength in the body. It has been used after surgery or illness. There are many supplements and combinations that are used for nutritional support. Nutritional support can be taken by mouth or injected into the bloodstream or digestive system by a healthcare provider.


There are no advised doses for nutritional support.

What Research Shows

Likely Effective

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease —likely to improve nutrition, weight, and grip strength C1-C3
  • Critically ill surgical patients —likely to provide benefit E1
  • Hospitalized older adults —likely to provide benefit and improve quality of life I1
  • Malnourishment —likely to promote wellness and improve recovery (especially after surgery)K1, K2
  • Pressure ulcer —likely to promote healing L1
  • Tuberculosis support —likely to provide benefit M1

May Be Effective

  • Cancer treatment support —may ease symptoms A1, A2
  • Chronic lower extremity wounds —may promote healing B1
  • Gastrointestinal surgery —may dietary intake and improve body weight F1
  • Hip fracture —may prevent complications G1

Not Enough Data to Assess

  • Critically ill children D1
  • Hospitalized adults at nutritional risk H1
  • Liver disease J1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to use nutritional support for a short period. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse.



A. Cancer Treatment Support

A1. Ward EJ, Henry LM, et al. Nutritional support in children and young people with cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;(8):CD003298.

A2. Blackwood HA, Hall CC, et al. A systematic review examining nutrition support interventions in patients with incurable cancer. Support Care Cancer. 2019 Jul 29.

B. Chronic Lower Extremity Wounds

B1. Ye J, Mani R. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nutritional Supplementation in Chronic Lower Extremity Wounds. Int J Low Extrem Wounds. 2016 Dec;15(4):296-302.

C. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

C1. Collins PF, Stratton RJ, et al. Nutritional support in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(6):1385-1395.

C2. Ferreira IM, Brooks D, et al. Nutritional supplementation for stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Dec 12;12:CD000998.

C3. Collins PF, Elia M, et al. Nutritional support and functional capacity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Respirology. 2013;18(4):616-629.

D. Critically Ill Children

D1. Joffe A, Anton N, et al. Nutritional support for critically ill children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 May 27;(5):CD005144.

E. Critically Ill Surgical Patients

E1. Ledgard K, Mann B, et al. What is the evidence for the use of parenteral nutrition (PN) in critically ill surgical patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tech Coloproctol. 2018 Oct;22(10):755-766.

F. Gastrointestinal Surgery

F1. Vidal Casariego A, Calleja Fernández A, et al. Efficacy of enteral nutritional support after hospital discharge in major gastrointestinal surgery patients: a systematic review. Nutr Hosp. 2017 Jun 5;34(3):719-726.

G. Hip Fracture

G1. Avenell A, Smith TO, et al. Nutritional supplementation for hip fracture aftercare in older people. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Nov 30;11:CD001880.

H. Hospitalized Adults at Nutritional Risk

H1. Feinberg J, Nielsen EE, et al. Nutrition support in hospitalised adults at nutritional risk. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 May 19;5:CD011598.

I. Hospitalized Older Adults

I1. Rasmussen NML, Belqaid K, et al. Effectiveness of multidisciplinary nutritional support in older hospitalised patients: A systematic review and meta-analyses. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2018 Oct;27:44-52.

J. Liver Disease

J1. Koretz RL, Avenell A, et al. Nutritional support for liver disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(5):CD008344.

K. Malnourishment

K1. Zhong JX, Jang K, et al. Effect of nutritional support on clinical outcomes in perioperative malnourished patients: a meta-analysis. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2015;24(3):367-378.

K2. Bally MR, Blaser Yildirim PZ, et al. Nutritional Support and Outcomes in Malnourished Medical Inpatients: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(1):43-53.

L. Pressure Ulcer

L1. Cereda E, Neyens JCL, et al. Efficacy of a Disease-Specific Nutritional Support for Pressure Ulcer Healing: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Nutr Health Aging. 2017;21(6):655-661.

M. Tuberculosis Support

M1. Si ZL, Kang LL, et al. Adjuvant Efficacy of Nutrition Support During Pulmonary Tuberculosis Treating Course: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Chin Med J (Engl). 2015 Dec 5;128(23):3219-3230.

Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC