Arginine, glutamine, the long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and, to a lesser extent, ribonucleic acid and the vitamins E, C, and A have pharmacologic effects when given in amounts in excess of what is needed to prevent nutritional deficiency. These effects are exerted primarily via the immune system, and immunoenhancing diets that embody the recently developed principles of nutritional pharmacology have been shown to reduce infectious complications by approximately 75% in surgical patients and hospital stay by more than 20% in surgical patients and patients in the intensive care unit in three independent, prospective, randomized studies, two of which were double-blinded. These findings suggest that specialized diets can be designed that will be of benefit to patients with cancer, atherosclerosis, intestinal diseases, autoimmune diseases, infections, and trauma. However, the interaction of these nutrients in pharmacologic amounts with standard pharmacologic drugs is largely unknown, as are the effects of long-term administration of specialized diets to treat these conditions.
(Arch Surg. 1993;128:1242-1245)