Millions of people around the world have been impacted by COVID-19. We know the virus affects people in a wide variety of ways, and there are still many uncertainties, and still so much that needs to be done around the world, and here in India. But one thing is certain – the road to recovery requires strength and immunity at an individual and community level, both figuratively and literally.
We must use this time to build our community stronger and find ways to protect ourselves and those around us – through taking health and safety precautions. Each one of us has a role to play in making our nation healthier, stronger, and more resilient than ever before. For those of us who are caregivers – whether it’s for a little one or an aging parent – making sure our loved ones are healthy is a top priority. Perhaps now, more than ever before.
Experts Say Focus on Nutrition
Health can begin at home. Good nutrition is critical to support a healthy immune system. As an individual, the focus needs to be on a balanced diet and physical exercise to maintain good health. Experts tell us that one of the most important aspects of promoting overall health and resilience as we or our loved ones grow older, is to prevent and treat malnutrition and muscle loss.
In light the global health pandemic, The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) recently published practical recommendations on the nutritional management of individuals with COVID-19. (Ref: Barazzoni R, et al. Clin Nutr. 2020; e-pub ahead of print.) This guidance underlines the importance of identifying patients at risk for malnutrition and intervening with proper nutrition by providing enough protein, calories, vitamins and minerals, as soon as possible. The experts emphasize the importance of considering nutrition despite the severity of illness and where an individual is fighting the virus.
Whether someone is fighting a mild case of COVID at home or a severe case in the ICU, the risk of malnutrition and muscle loss increases due to reduced physical activity, lower appetite, and for moderate/severe cases, increased inflammation or catabolism, when the body starts breaking down tissue for energy.
Good nutrition can help prevent or reverse malnutrition or muscle loss, so it’s important to prioritize a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and adequate protein. Oral nutritional supplements are recommended when an individual can’t meet their protein, calorie and micronutrient needs through food intake alone.
For those individuals who are intubated or cannot consume food orally for other reasons, tube feeds provide sole-source nutrition. Therefore, medical nutrition products are specially formulated, and there are various types of products to meet people’s unique needs. Research shows that identifying malnourished or individuals at risk and providing proper nutrition can shorten patients’ length of stay and reduce hospital readmissions.
Nutrition for the ill and well
The guidance to prioritize nutrition is important for those who are ill, and for those who are well. For those who are not critically ill, or for people who haven’t contracted the virus, it’s important to maintain a good nutritional status through proper nutrition and exercise. Research shows that when people remain active, perform physical activities throughout the day, and consume a balanced, nutritious diet, they are more likely to remain in a good condition so they can better cope with infections.
Staying vigilant for signs of malnutrition (low appetite, unintended weight loss, poor diet or food intake) and muscle loss (decreased energy, weakness or unintentional weight loss) can help prevent or reverse these conditions.
It’s also beneficial to focus on specific nutrition to support immune system health as there is a strong relationship between poor nutritional status and compromised immunity. Individuals should look for foods that contain nutrients to support a healthy immune system, including protein, vitamin A, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin C and vitamin E. (Ref: Nutrition to support immune health)
Nutrition is, and will remain, the most significant opportunity to change people’s lives, and there’s an important role and responsibility for us to develop new nutrition innovation at Abbott. But change must involve governments, regulatory agencies, and academia working together. Despite its recognized importance in all facets of health and healing, nutrition is often overlooked and underserved.
Nutrition is the foundation for living your best life. We recognize it has the power to support immune health, aid in illness recovery, and prevent disease. Abbott has been making nutritional drinks for people of all ages for nearly a century – with more than 600 scientists globally who support the pre-clinical and clinical research behind every product.
Building resilient communities
At a community level, it is important to continue educating people about the risks of malnutrition, through the help of global and local healthcare experts, and to protect the most vulnerable members of our families and societies – our elderly neighbors, our children, and people living with diabetes or underlying health conditions.
Because, when nutrition is supported at every level, we can live healthier lives, support strong recovery, and in due time – develop a stronger and healthier community.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.