Andrea Garber, PhD, RD, associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital said that these findings are crucial to develop evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of young people suffering from malnutrition related to anorexia nervosa.
In the study, researchers evaluated 56 adolescent patients who were placed on higher-calorie diets starting at 1800 calories per day and advanced by about 120 calories per day, versus those starting on 1100 calories a day and advanced at a slower rate of 100 calories per day.
Study participants were adolescents with anorexia nervosa who required hospitalization for malnutrition indicated by low body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and body mass index. The primarily white female adolescent patients were fed three meals and three snacks each day and their vital signs were monitored closely, with their heart rates measured continuously and electrolytes checked twice a day.
When comparing the two groups, the rate of weight gain was almost double on higher- versus lower-calorie diets, and patients receiving more calories were hospitalized for an average of seven fewer days, without an increased risk of refeeding syndrome.
The study findings has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.