Pediatric Nephrology

, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 1807–1814 | Cite as

Energy homeostasis and cachexia in chronic kidney disease

  • Robert H. MakEmail author
  • Wai Cheung


Loss of protein stores, presenting as clinical wasting, is reported to have a prevalence of 30–60% and is an important risk factor for mortality in chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients. There is debate as to whether the clinical wasting in CKD patients represents malnutrition or cachexia. Malnutrition results from inadequate intake of nutrients, despite a good appetite, and manifests as weight loss associated with adaptive metabolic responses such as decreased basic metabolic rate and preservation of lean body mass at the expense of fat mass. Furthermore, the abnormalities in malnutrition can usually be overcome simply by supplying more food or altering the composition of the diet. In contrast, cachexia is characterized by maladaptive responses such as anorexia, elevated basic metabolic rate, wasting of lean body tissue, and underutilization of fat tissue for energy. Diet supplementation and intradialytic parenteral nutrition have not been successful in reversing cachexia in CKD. The etiology of cachexia in CKD is complex and multifactorial. Two major factors causing muscle wasting in uremia are acidosis and decreased insulin responses. Inflammation secondary to cytokines may also play a significant role. The hypoalbuminemia of CKD patients is principally associated with inflammation and not changes in food intake. There is also recent evidence that hypothalamic neuropeptides may be important in the downstream signaling of cytokines in the pathogenesis of cachexia in CKD. Elevated circulating levels of cytokines, such as leptin, may be an important cause of uremia-associated cachexia via signaling through the central melanocortin system. Further research into the molecular pathways leading to cachexia may lead to novel therapeutic therapy for this devastating and potentially fatal complication of CKD.


Energy homeostasis Cachexia Malnutrition Leptin Melanocortin signaling Uremia Chronic kidney disease End-stage renal disease 


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Copyright information

© IPNA 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Department of Pediatrics Oregon Health and Science UniversityPortlandUSA

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