eyond the “diets” to use, slimming, there are other types of therapeutic diets that are based on the pathological circumstances of a particular patient. This area or branch of nutrition and diet is little known by the general population (not so by health professionals) and is called diet therapy .
In turn, one of the most popular diets in this field, and mainly circumscribed to the hospital environment, is the so-called neutropenic diet . But that is known, and often put into practice, does not mean that in the light of current knowledge has a special sense its use . But before talking about its usefulness, let’s go in parts and see what this is about neutropenia .
Neutropenia, as corresponds to its etymology, alludes to the pathological situation characterized by the decrease of certain white blood cells in our blood , specifically those called neutrophils . As I imagine you know, it is a cellular corpuscle whose functions highlight the “defend” the organism of possible infections. Despite being a rare circumstance, neutropenia has been described relatively frequently in patients undergoing chemotherapy in order to treat cancer, patients undergoing treatment for a transplant, immunosuppressed …
Thus, for several decades, a “clean” or “low bacteria” diet has been proposed that minimizes the possibility of infections in this type of patients, precisely because of their “low defenses”. This diet is called the neutropenic diet … although in my opinion it should be called more properly, for its better understanding as a diet for situations of neutropenia .
What does it consist of?
Well, the truth is that here comes much of the problem because there are no uniform standards for the administration of a neutropenic diet and its variants are many, even within the same hospital where different professionals defend different dietary schemes for the same purpose.
The fact is that, as I say, there is no standard definition of neutropenic diet . Not even what fundamental characteristics are attributed to it or what specific foods have to be restricted, how to prepare them, what criteria should be implemented or what limitations it presents . Thus, only in regard to the inclusion / exclusion of food studies conducted in order to collect the different practices used in hospitals to highlight what is done in each of them when a neutropenic diet is proposed have highlighted a wide range of definitions and practices . Of what little they have in common is the prohibition of fresh raw fruits and vegetables. But some centers also restrict the freshly squeezed juices, dried fruits, yogurt, cheeses, raw spices, honey, sausages, dried fruits, meats, undercooked fish and seafood, and other products with very little coincidence. boiled eggs.
But does it work or at least some do?
Considering the ultimate goal of the neutropenic diet, that is, to diminish the possible infections in patients initially predisposed to these … it seems that no. Or at least to date there is no clear evidence.
As pointed out in this review , several studies have shown the inconsistency in the application of neutropenic diets in patients with neutropenia diagnosed by diverse causes. Thus, in general after reviewing more than a dozen studies, it is concluded that the data of all the publications on this issue do not provide solid evidence that a restrictive “low-microbe” dietary pattern (or neutropenic diet) protects patients with neutropenia against bacterial infections better than a more or less “free” diet .
In summary: the evidence currently available does not consider food as a direct cause of bacterial infections in neutropenic patients. Thus, by virtue of the aforementioned review, given the wide variability of criteria to guide them and their protocols, it is suggested that while this cause and effect can not be proven, the so-called neutropenic diet is not used, at least in cancer patients.
Instead, knowing how safe and well-established guidelines for food handling are known to prevent the spread of foodborne germs among the general population, it is recommended that these guidelines replace the use of the neutropenic diet , whether that are the characteristics that in each case define it.