Enteral feeding very early after trauma has been hypothesized to attenuate the stress response and to improve patient outcome. We tested this hypothesis in a prospective, randomized clinical trial in patients with blunt trauma. Following resuscitation and control of bleeding, 52 patients were randomized to receive early feedings (target, <24 hours) or late feedings (target, 72 hours). Feeding was given via nasoduodenal feeding tubes. A rapid advance technique was used to achieve full volume and strength within 24 hours (goal, 1.5 g protein/kg⋅day). Patients who underwent at least 5 days of therapy were considered to have completed the study: 38 in all, 19 in each feeding group. Patients were similar in age, gender, Injury Severity Score, and mean Pao2/Fio2 ratio. The early group, however, had more patients with a Pao2/Fio2 <150. After feeding began, the amount fed per day was the same in both groups. We found no significant differences in metabolic responses as measured by plasma lactate and urinary total nitrogen, catecholamines, and cortisol. Both groups achieved nitrogen retention. In addition, we found no significant differences in intensive care unit (ICU) days, ventilator days, organ system failure, specific types of infections, or mortality, although the early group had a greater number of total infections. In this study, early enteral feeding after blunt trauma neither attenuated the stress response nor altered patient outcome.