Critically ill patients who depend on intensive care for more than a few days reveal profound erosion of lean body mass, which is thought to contribute to high morbidity and mortality. Despite a shortfall of evidence that supplemental feeding actually alters clinical outcome of these life-threatening disease states, this observation evoked an almost universal, albeit often inappropriate, use of nutritional support (NS) in the critically ill, administered via the parenteral or the enteral route. Lack of knowledge and overenthusiasm subsequently resulted in complications associated with both parenteral nutrition (PN) and enteral nutrition (EN), which led to the standing controversy over which should be preferred. With time, however, it became clear that EN and PN are not mutually exclusive and that critically ill patients requiring NS should be fed according to the functional status of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, tight blood glucose control with insulin is advised in fed critically ill patients because overall metabolic control appears to surpass any outcome benefit attributed to the route of feeding. Recently, various special nutritional formulas have been suggested to prevent or treat multiorgan failure in the critically ill, among other pathways via modulation of immune function. Although special nutritional formulas may be promising in a variety of clinical settings, based on currently available data, these cannot be recommended for routine use in critically ill patients.