Alert

COPD: Avoiding Weight Loss

Introduction

Some people with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—especially those with emphysema—may be underweight and malnourished.

  • People with COPD often lose weight. When you lose weight, you lose muscle mass, including the muscles that help you breathe. This may make breathing more difficult.
  • Some people with COPD weigh too little for good health. It's dangerous to become very underweight.
  • To avoid losing weight and muscle mass, you generally need to eat more foods containing fat and protein. Because eating too much fat and targeting certain nutrients (such as protein) may have health risks, always consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before eating more of these foods to gain weight.

How do I avoid weight loss in COPD?

If you are beginning to lose weight and muscle mass, you probably need to eat more protein and get more calories. This generally means eating more foods containing fat and protein. Because eating too much fat and targeting certain nutrients (such as protein) may have health risks, always consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian before eating more of these foods to gain weight.

High-calorie snacks

Foods that can help you add calories to your diet include:

  • Ice cream.
  • Pudding.
  • Cheese.
  • Granola bars.
  • Custard.
  • Eggs.
  • Avocado.
  • Crackers with peanut butter.
  • Bagels with peanut butter or cream cheese.
  • Cereal with half and half.
  • Popcorn with margarine and Parmesan cheese.
  • High-calorie drinks like whole milk, milkshakes, and nutritional supplements, such as nutrition shakes.

Adding calories to a meal or snack

Adding the following foods to meals or snacks can help you add calories and protein to your diet.

  • Add an egg or egg yolk to meat loaf, macaroni and cheese, or similar foods. Be sure to cook the food after adding the egg.
  • Add powdered milk to creamed soups, scrambled eggs, pudding, potatoes, yogurt, and casseroles.
  • Add cheese to sandwiches, crackers, casseroles, soups, toast, and pasta.
  • Add an extra tablespoon of vegetable oil or olive oil, mayonnaise, butter, margarine, or sour cream to sandwiches, bread, casseroles, soups, cooked cereals, pasta, potatoes, rice, or vegetables.
  • Grind up some nuts and sprinkle the dust on puddings, gravy, mashed potatoes, casseroles, salads, and yogurt.

Adding protein to your diet

Milk, milk products, and meats are high in protein. Try to eat more of these foods, or:

  • Add skim milk powder to milk, cold cereals, scrambled eggs, soups, and ground meat.
  • Add cheese or peanut butter to snacks.
  • Choose desserts that use eggs, such as sponge cake, egg custard, and rice pudding.
  • Use nutritional supplements high in protein, such as nutrition shakes.

Credits

Current as of: June 9, 2019

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology, Critical Care Medicine

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