This glossary includes definitions of both nutritional terms and terms commonly used in the Nutrition Academy Web site


A globular serum protein produced in the liver. Assessment of albumin levels provides a marker of nutritional status.


The measurement of the proportions, size and weight of the human body.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR)

The amount of energy used for basal metabolism in a period of time, measured at rest under standard conditions. BMR represents 45–70% of daily total energy expenditure and is determined mainly by age, gender, body size and composition.

Body mass index (BMI)

Defined as an individual's body mass in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters.

Cardiac cachexia

Severe and unintentional weight loss as a result of chronic heart disease.

Central vein catheter (CVC)

A central venous catheter, also called a central line, is a long, thin, flexible tube used to give medicines, fluids, nutrients, or blood products over a long period of time, usually several weeks or more. A catheter is often inserted in the arm or chest through the skin into a large vein. The catheter is threaded through this vein until it reaches a large vein near the heart. A catheter may be inserted into the neck if it will be used only during a hospital stay.

Chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction (CIPO)

A clinical syndrome caused by severe impairment in the ability of the intestines to push food through. It presents with the signs and symptoms of intestinal obstruction but without lesions in the intestinal lumen. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, nausea, severe distension, vomiting, dysphagia, diarrhea and constipation.

Energy balance

A measure of the balance between energy input and output.

Energy requirement

The amount of energy derived from food required to maintain body size and composition and a level of physical activity to provide good health. For children, this includes the energy needed for optimal growth and development.

Energy to nitrogen ratio (E/N):

The ratio of energy expenditure to nitrogen loss with respect to energy to nitrogen provision. The goal is to provide sufficient non-protein energy (carbohydrates, fats) such that there is no loss of lean body mass.

Enteral nutrition

The delivery of a nutritionally complete feed directly into the stomach, duodenum or jejunum via a tube.

Extrauterine growth restriction

A marker of severe nutritional deficiency in newborns and categorised as a growth value of ≤10th percentile of intrauterine growth expectation based on an estimated gestational age.


A birth defect of the abdominal wall in which the infants intestine or other abdominal organs protrude freely through the umbilicus with no overlying peritoneal sac.


A surgical procedure used to create an opening into the stomach. The procedure may be used to allow the placement of a feeding tube.

Hirschsprung disease

A congenital condition causing a blockage of the large intestine due to improper muscle movement in the bowel.

Intestinal atresia

A narrowing or absence of a portion of the small or large intestine present at birth.

Jejunal tube - percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (JET–PEG)

A jejunal tube passing through the PEG usually placed beyond the ligament of Treitz.


A surgical procedure to create an opening into the jejunum. The procedure may be used to allow a feeding tube to be placed in the jejunum.

Lipid emulsions

Used in parenteral nutrition formulations as a source of calories e.g. soy bean based emulsions, medium chain triglycerides and monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatty acids.


A state of nutrition in which a deficiency or excess (or imbalance) of energy, protein and other nutrients causes adverse effects on body shape, size and composition and function and clinical outcome.

Acute malnutrition

Rapid weight loss or failure to gain weight as a result of inadequate nutrition.

Chronic malnutrition

Failure to maintain weight or achieve linear growth as a result of inadequate nutrition over a long period of time.


Nutrients the body requires in relatively large quantities such as proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Meconium ileus

A thickened meconium causing congestion in the ileum with a risk of intestinal perforation.

Meconium peritonitis

A rupture of the bowel resulting in the meconium escaping into the peritoneum causing peritonitis.


A rare form of malignant cancer which affects the protective membrane which covers many internal organs e.g. the pleura of the lungs.


Nutrients the body requires in relatively small quantities such as trace minerals, vitamins and trace elements.

Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC)

A condition observed primarily in premature infants where portions of the bowel undergo necrosis.

Nitrogen balance

A measure of the difference between nitrogen output and nitrogen input. This may be estimated using blood urea nitrogen or the urea concentration in urine. Nitrogen balance gives an estimate of protein balance. A positive nitrogen balance is required for maintaining lean body mass.

Nosocomial infection

An infection acquired in hospital or whose development is favoured by the hospital environment.

Oral nutrition support

Fortified food, additional snacks and/or supplements.


A birth defect of the abdominal wall in which the infants intestine or other abdominal organs protrude through the umbilicus and are contained in an overlying peritoneal sac.

Parenteral nutrition

The delivery of nutrition intravenously.

Parenteral nutrition associated liver disease (PNALP)

Liver disease associated with the use of parenteral nutrition. The disease presents in various forms and commonly includes steatosis, steatohepatitis and cholestasis. The cause of the liver disease is thought to be related to the effects of highly concentrated glucose and amino acids.

Percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG)

Describes a gastrostomy performed using fluoroscopic guidance, without the need for a laporotomy. This may be performed using either a wire through the abdominal wall into the gut (Sacks-Vine technique) or by advancing a feeding tube through the patient’s mouth into the stomach and using a snare to pull this through the gastric puncture site (Gauderer-Ponsky technique).

Percutaneous endoscopic jejunostomy (PEJ)

A surgical procedure for performing a jejunostomy directly into the jejunum using fluoroscopic guidance, without a laparotomy.

Peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC)

Intravenous access that can be used for extended periods of time, inserted into a peripheral vein such as the brachial vein and then advanced through to larger veins using ultrasound guidance. The catheter usually rests in the superior vena cava or the cavo-atrial junction. Used for total parenteral nutrition and also for extended antibiotic therapy or chemotherapy.

Postpyloric feeding

An alternative to parenteral feeding performed using nasoduodenal or nasojejunal tubes or jejunostomy.

Protein balance

An estimate of the difference between protein intake and protein loss.

Refeeding syndrome

Metabolic disturbances that occur as a result of reinstitution of nutrition to patients who are starved or severely malnourished.


The loss of strength and degeneration of skeletal muscle mass as a result of aging.

Short bowel syndrome

A condition in which nutrients are not properly absorbed because a large part of the small intestine is missing (due to a birth defect) or has been surgically removed.

Skeletal muscle mass index (SMI)

Defines as skeletal muscle mass/body mass x 100. Skeletal muscle mass may be estimated using bioimpedance analysis.

Subjective global assessment (SGA) tool

A validated clinical technique which assesses a patient’s nutritional status based on features of the history and physical examination.

Supplemental/supplementary parenteral nutrition (SPN)

Parenteral nutrition that is supplied in addition to other routes of nutrition.

Total parenteral nutrition (TPN)

Parenteral nutrition where no significant nutrition is obtained by other routes.

Trace elements

Elements required by the body for normal growth and physiological functions e.g. iron, iodine.

Transpyloric feeding

Enteral feeding method where the nasogastric tube ends in the upper small bowel.


A bowel obstruction with a loop of bowel that is abnormally twisted.