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Laboratory measurements of nutritional status as correlates of atrophic glossitis


Objective:To perform a comprehensive laboratory assessment of nutritional status in two elderly patients selected for the presence of atrophic glossitis, a classic physical sign of malnutrition.

Design:Case report.

Setting:Inpatient internal medicine ward at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Medical Center, Madison, Wisconsin.

Measurements and main results:Blood specimens were analyzed by the Nutrition Evaluation Laboratory at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Both subjects had biochemical evidence of protein-calorie malnutrition and were deficient or marginally deficient in several vitamins and trace minerals.

Conclusions:Much work needs to be done to determine the sensitivity and positive predictive value of the classic physical signs of malnutrition as predictors of low biochemical levels and adverse clinical outcomes. The presence of atrophic glossitis should prompt the clinician to consider a basic nutritional assessment.

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Supported in part by USDA ARS contract number 53-3K06-5-10.

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Drinka, P.J., Langer, E., Scott, L. et al. Laboratory measurements of nutritional status as correlates of atrophic glossitis. J Gen Intern Med 6, 137–140 (1991).

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Key words

  • glossitis
  • thiamine
  • riboflavin
  • folate
  • nutritional status