Disease-related malnutrition in adult patients who have been admitted to hospital is a syndrome associated with substantially increased morbidity, disability, short-term and long-term mortality, impaired recovery from illness, and cost of care. There is uncertainty regarding optimal diagnostic criteria, definitions for malnutrition, and how to identify patients who would benefit from nutritional intervention. Malnutrition has become the focus of research aimed at translating current knowledge of its pathophysiology into improved diagnosis and treatment. Researchers are particularly interested in developing nutritional interventions that reverse the negative effects of disease-related malnutrition in the hospital setting. High-quality randomised trials have provided evidence that nutritional therapy can reduce morbidity and other complications associated with malnutrition in some patients. Screening of patients for risk of malnutrition at hospital admission, followed by nutritional assessment and individualised nutritional interventions for malnourished patients, should become part of routine clinical care and multimodal treatment in hospitals worldwide.