Cachexia overview

Cachexia is a wasting disease that accompanies a wide range of serious chronic illnesses and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Cachexia is a feature of many medical conditions, including acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic heart failure, chronic renal failure, chronic liver failure, tuberculosis and cancer.

Cachexia is defined as weight loss, associated with a chronic underlying disease, of at least 5% in 12 months or less. It is commonly associated with fatigue, loss of muscle strength and fat tissue loss associated with a range of immune, neurohormonal, metabolic and biochemical abnormalities. It is characteristically associated with negative protein loss, reduced food intake and abnormal metabolism1.

The overall prevalence of cachexia is high and growing in industrialized countries. It is estimated that cachexia affects approximately 9 million patients, which is about 1% of all patients with any disease2.




1Evans WJ, Morley JE, Argilés J, Bales C, Baracos V, Guttridge D, et al. Cachexia: a new definition. Clin Nutr 2008; 27: 793–799.

2Von Haehling S, Anker MS, Anker SD. Prevalence and clinical impact of cachexia in chronic illness in Europe, USA and Japan. J Cachexia Sarcopenia Muscle 2016; 7: 507–509.