École supérieure des Sciences et Techniques de la Santé de Tunis, Université El Mannar, Département de nutrition, BP 176, Bab Suika, 1006 Tunis, Tunisie, Institut Salah Azaiz de Carcinologie, service de chirurgie
Malnutrition increases the risks of morbidity and mortality in cancer patients. It is characterized by changes in cellular membrane integrity and alterations in fluid balance, both of which can be detected by bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA). We investigated whether BIA-mesured variables could detect malnutrition, as defined by body mass index (BMI) and anthropometric indices, in 83 Tunisian cancer patients (18 men and 65 women) hospitalized in surgery. The investigations occurred within the first 24 hours following hospital admission. Analysis revealed that 4.8 % of the patients were at risk for malnutrition according to body mass index. By impedancemetry, 26.5 % of all patients had free-fat mass index (FFMI) below the normal range and 15.6 % had a low fat mass index (FMI) despite a normal or relatively high BMI. While males lose their fatty reserves early, females tend to lose free-fat, muscular mass regardless of their BMI. The BMI can be misleading in an overweight or obese patient and conceal losses in muscular mass in patients exposed to latent malnutrition. The FFMI and FMI appear to be better indicators of the nutritional status than the BMI.