HIV-1 Infection in Women Is Associated With Severe Nutritional Deficiencies

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Nutritional deficiencies may contribute to immune dysregulation, and have been shown to be sensitive markers of HIV-1 disease progression. Only limited information exists, however, regarding the nutritional profile of HIV-1-seropositive drug abusers. Immune and nutritional measurements were obtained in a subsample of 125 subjects from a larger cohort of drug users being followed for HIV-1 infection and cofactors of disease progression. Nutritional deficiencies, particularly vitamins A, E, and zinc, were widespread with up to 86% of the drug users exhibiting at least one nutritional alteration. Although immune parameters (CD4 count, CD8 count,β2-microglobulin) were similar in the HIV-1-infected men and women, women had significantly poorer overall nutritional status, as measured by plasma proteins, which are considered to be sensitive markers of malnutrition. A comparison of individuals with advanced disease (CD4 count <200/mm3) revealed significantly lower levels of plasma prealbumin (p < .01), selenium, (p < .05), and greater deficiency of vitamins A (p < .01) and E (p < .05) in women than in men. The greater severity of nutritional deficiencies noted in HIV-1-infected women may be an important determinant of disease progression and survival.

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