Stress Measured by Allostatic Load in Neurologically Impaired Children: The Importance of Nutritional Status

Valeria Calcaterra, Hellas Cena, Annalisa De Silvestri, Riccardo Albertini, Mara De Amici, Mario Valenza, Gloria Pelizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Allostatic load (AL) is the cumulative physiological wear and tear that results from repeated efforts to adapt to stressors over time. The life stress response is modified by nutritional status. Aim: We estimated AL scores among neurologically impaired (NI) children; the association with malnutrition was also evaluated. Methods: Forty-one patients with severe disabilities were included. Data based on 15 biomarkers were used to create the AL score. A dichotomous outcome of high AL was defined for those who had ≥6 dysregulated components. Body mass index (BMI)-standard deviation score (SDS) <-2 or SDS ≥2 and biochemical markers (≥4) defined malnutrition. Results: High AL was noted in 17/41 of the whole sample (41.47%). Malnutrition occurred in 36.6% of the subjects. A significant correlation between high AL and malnutrition was observed (p = 0.01; ar ea under the receiver operating characteristic curve, 0.7457). High AL subjects had a significantly higher BMI (p = 0.009) and lower BMI-SDS (p = 0.003) than low AL subjects. AL score correlated with fat mass (p ≤ 0.01) and negatively correlated with fat-free mass (p ≤ 0.02). Conclusion: In NI children, high AL was associated with malnutrition. Body composition is a better indicator than BMI of allostatic adjustments. AL estimation should be considered a measure of health risk and be used to promote quality of life in at-risk disabled populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-230
Number of pages7
JournalHormone Research in Paediatrics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Allostatic load
  • Disabilities
  • Neurologically impaired children
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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