Background: Pulmonary rehabilitation is effective in improving exercise performance and health status in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the role of nutritional support in the enhancement of the benefits of exercise training has not been explored. A double blind, randomised, controlled trial of carbohydrate supplementation was undertaken in patients attending outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation.
Methods: 85 patients with COPD were randomised to receive a 570 kcal carbohydrate rich supplement or a non-nutritive placebo daily for the duration of a 7 week outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation programme. Primary outcome measures were peak and submaximal exercise performance using the shuttle walk tests. Changes in health status, body composition, muscle strength, and dietary macronutrient intake were also measured.
Results: Patients in both the supplement and placebo groups increased shuttle walking performance and health status significantly. There was no statistically significant difference between treatment groups in these outcomes. Patients receiving placebo lost weight whereas supplemented patients gained weight. In well nourished patients (BMI >19 kg/m2) improvement in incremental shuttle performance was significantly greater in the supplemented group (mean difference between groups: 27 (95% CI 1 to 53) m, p<0.05). Increases in incremental shuttle performance correlated with increases in total carbohydrate intake.
Conclusions: When universally prescribed, carbohydrate supplementation does not enhance the rehabilitation of patients with COPD. This study suggests that exercise training results in negative energy balance that can be overcome by supplementation and that, in selected patients, this may improve the outcome of training. The finding of benefit in well nourished patients may suggest a role for nutritional supplementation beyond the treatment of weight loss in COPD.
- exercise performance
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
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M Steiner recruited patients to the study, carried out outcome measurements, analysed the data, and wrote the manuscript with the help of the other authors. S Singh was responsible for the running of the pulmonary rehabilitation programme. R Barton provided dietetic support and monitoring for patients who were participating in the study and helped to analyse the data. M Morgan was involved in planning the study and provided overall supervision of the project.
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