What is medical nutrition therapy and how can it improve your health?

Through medical nutritional therapy some chronic diseases can be prevented and treated. In this way, it is possible to improve with the application of changes in the diet.

Written and verified by the nutritionist Anna Vilarrasa on November 24, 2021.

Last update: November 24, 2021

Much is known about the importance of eating among healthy habits. For this reason, it is interesting to implement tools such as medical nutritional therapy, with which diseases can be improved.

From the hand of the doctor and a nutritionist, changes in lifestyle and diet are proposed, suitable for each person. Are you interested in discovering more details about this therapy? Next we will tell you what this treatment is.

What is medical nutrition therapy?

Medical nutrition therapy (also known as TNM for short) is a type of specialized nutritional therapy. It is carried out by medical experts and nutritionists and adapts individually to each person.

The first reference and definition dates from 1994. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics of the United States defines it as a set of diagnostic services, therapy and nutritional counseling directed to the management of some diseases. This mention is also supported by other associations and accredited professionals.

Services must be led by a nutrition professional with an in-depth evaluation of each case. In addition, they last the duration that each situation requires, with regular visits or contacts.

Its application is not intended to replace the usual treatment of diseases. However, it is a valuable adjunct to medical and pharmaceutical therapies.

There are diets designed for specific pathological problems. Certain foods contribute to well-being in some patients with specific cases.

When is it recommended?

Medical nutrition therapy is a common treatment in countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and some parts of Europe. Sometimes it is provided by the public health system itself.

There are a number of certain conditions that can improve with its application. Affected people are evaluated by a nutritionist who is in charge of determining the need or not for its implementation.

In the hospital setting, it is usually a doctor who requests this evaluation. And in the outpatient setting, it is each person’s own dietitians or doctors who can determine the need to implement NMT.

In some situations, medical nutritional therapy may be the first intervention applied. On other occasions it is combined with drug therapy. NMT is an integral component of the approach.

What are the bases of medical nutritional therapy?

The management of TNM is in charge of professional nutritionists in contact and collaboration with the doctor of each patient. From here, a nutritional evaluation is carried out based on scientific evidence guides and nutrition protocols. Therefore, access to the most advanced knowledge is guaranteed.

During the process, the work is carried out with the collaboration of the patient. Both set the objectives, the plan to follow and the necessary monitoring. The type of diet, the prescribed guidelines and the duration are variable and always depend on each case and its evolution.

Unlike the usual nutritional advice, medical nutrition therapy is dedicated to specific health conditions and is very individual.

Medical nutritional therapy in different health conditions

This tool can help in many circumstances. It is positive as long as diet plays a key role in managing the disease. However, there are some medical problems and diseases in which this utility is supported by science.

Heart disease

Medical nutrition therapy can help improve many heart diseases. This is the case for some conditions such as high triglycerides, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or irregular heartbeats. In addition, it also favors the prevention of possible more serious episodes.

In an article published in Journal of Clinical Lipidology The positive results that TNM has in the treatment of dyslipidemia and other cardiovascular risk factors are exposed.


The role of diet is key in the management of diabetes mellitus. For this reason, is an essential complement to medical intervention in all affected people.

According to the American Diabetes Association, the application of medical nutritional therapy can even prevent the onset of the disease. Furthermore, once manifested, complications can be slowed down or avoided.


During the treatment of most cancer diseases, it is necessary to apply radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or both. As a consequence, it is common for eating problems to appear. To this must be added the effect of the disease itself on the nutritional status of the patient.

The assistance of a nutritionist can help plan a diet, provide support and resources to patients with poor appetite or intestinal dysfunctions. In this way, the general condition is reinforced and some annoying symptoms are improved.

Digestive diseases

Pathologies related to the digestive system (colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome) affect a greater number of people every day. Apart from suffering symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, pain or bloating, other problems also tend to appear. As a consequence of poor nutrient absorption there may be weight loss, malnutrition, or inflammation.

With the help of TNM, harmful foods can be eliminated without fear of nutritional deficiencies. Also, later, it is possible to help the patient to reinsert them according to individual tolerance.

Chronic kidney disease

Kidney diseases are another of the fields of action of scientifically backed medical nutritional therapy. Affected people need to make dietary corrections that nutritionists help implement.

Thanks to these, trials show that it is possible to improve the nutritional status of patients and delay the start time of dialysis.

Hemodialysis patients suffer severe alterations in the concentration of nutrients, for which dietary advice is essential.

The Key Points About Medical Nutrition Therapy

Food plays a key role in obtaining and maintaining optimal physical and mental health. For this reason, it is of special interest to know the basics of healthy nutrition.

Aside from the general dietary advice, medical nutrition therapy focuses on the treatment of some chronic diseases. It has been shown to be effective in diabetes, cancer, digestive diseases or cardiovascular and kidney problems.

Through it, a nutritionist provides the guidelines to manage the pathology and avoid the risk of complications. As a general rule, it is the doctor who refers the patient and it does not start without a complete recognition of the nutritional status of the patient.

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