Handgrip Strength & Nutritional Status
Malnutrition and muscle strength go hand in hand regarding nutritional status!
Impaired muscle strength is a well-known phenomenon that occurs in disease-related malnutrition. In fact, when we are dealing with cases of nutritional deprivation, muscle function is one of the first components to react.
Reducing nutritional intake results in a compensatory loss of total body protein which is closely correlated to muscle function. Measurement of muscle function as an indicator of functional and nutritional status has therefore gained considerable attention.
Thus, handgrip strength has quickly become a popular marker of nutritional status, once it is a validated and a more feasible “bedside” method to assess muscle strength.
Use in clinical practice
The American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) preconizes that “Handgrip strength should be used to document a decline in physical function, as appropriate to patient circumstances. As the use of additional performance measures is more widely accepted and/or validated in the general or select populations of adults, characteristics used to measure functional status may expand.”
This tool is very attractive for clinical purposes due to its feasibility and prognostic relevance. Handgrip strength reflects the maximum strength derived from combined contraction of extrinsic and intrinsic hand muscles which lead to the flexion of hand joints. (1)
Handgrip strength and well-being
The handgrip strength in healthy people is strongly influenced by age and gender. In acute or chronic diseases, however, various other factors such as disease severity, co-morbidity burden, medical treatment and immobilization contribute to some extent to muscle weakness and thus to decreased well-being in patients.
Since muscle strength reacts earlier to nutritional deprivation, as well as to its restoration, when compared to muscle mass, it is recognized that using hand strength as a target variable to detect and monitor changes in nutritional status may be a strategy to identify cases of malnutrition early, and thus help improve the treatment of various pathologies. (2)