Maintaining optimum weight: recommendations for people with HIV from University of Maryland Medical Center

Here’s a good overview of some issues related to maintenance of optimum weight for people with HIV. This is an excerpt from the University Of Maryland Medical Center’s Complementary/Alternative Medicine website.

Some of the key supplements mentioned below are:




Weight loss can be a serious problem for people with HIV. This symptom may begin early in the course of the disease and can increase the risk for developing opportunistic infections. Weight loss is exacerbated by other common symptoms of HIV and AIDS, including lesions in the mouth and esophagus, diarrhea, and poor appetite. Over the last several years, weight loss has become less of a problem due to the new protease inhibitors used for treating HIV. Reduction of muscle mass, though, remains a significant concern. Working with a registered dietitian to develop a meal plan to prevent weight loss and muscle breakdown is extremely helpful. Resistance training (lifting weights) can also protect against muscle breakdown and increase lean body mass.

Preventing diarrhea and ensuring that the body absorbs enough protein to maintain muscle strength has become a major goal of HIV/AIDS preventative care. One program for combating diarrhea includes using soluble fiber (not insoluble fiber, such as Metamucil and psyllium husks). For some people, soluble fiber can help food stay in the digestive tract for longer periods of time, increasing the amount of nutrients that are absorbed, and lessening bowel frequency. Good sources of soluble fiber include apple pectin, oat bran, and flax seed. Because diarrhea can be a potentially life-threatening situation, soluble fiber therapy should be used under the strict supervision of a trained professional.

Using certain supplements may help in maintaining body weight. A well-designed study compared the use of a daily supplement regimen that included enormous amounts of the amino acid glutamine (40 g per day), along with vitamin C (800 mg), vitamin E (500 IU), beta-carotene (27,000 IU), selenium (280 mcg), and N-acetyl cysteine (2,400 mg) to placebo. People who took the supplements gained significantly more weight after 12 weeks than those who took the placebo.

Another study found that a combination of glutamine (7 g per day), arginine (7 g), and an amino acid derivative called hydroxymethylbutyrate or HMB (1.5 g) helped people gain lean body weight during 8 weeks of treatment compared to placebo. High doses of arginine however, may be linked to an increase in herpes viral outbreaks. To find the right dose that offers benefits without dangerous side effects, consult with a trained nutritionally oriented physician.


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