Protein-energy wasting (PEW) is prevalent among patients on dialysis and has emerged as an important risk factor for morbidity and mortality in these patients. Numerous factors, including inflammation, inadequate dialysis, insufficient nutrient intake, loss of protein during dialysis, chronic acidosis, hypercatabolic illness and comorbid conditions, are involved in the development of PEW. The causes and clinical features of PEW in patients on peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis are comparable; assessment of the factors that lead to PEW in patients receiving peritoneal dialysis is important to ensure that PEW is managed correctly in these patients. For the past 20 years, much progress has been made in the prevention and treatment of PEW. However, the results of most nutritional intervention studies are inconclusive. In addition, the multifactorial and complicated pathogenesis of PEW makes it difficult to assess and treat. This Review summarizes the nutritional issues regarding the causes, assessment and treatment of PEW, with a focus on patients receiving peritoneal dialysis. In addition, an in-depth overview of the results of nutritional intervention studies is provided.