Feature Article: Emphasizing the importance of nutrition in the treatment of COVID-19 in Hungary 
  • The COVID pandemic is here with us for almost one and half years now. Various media are loaded with information on the relation between obesity and serious COVID-outcomes - but we rarely hear about the relation between malnutrition and COVID.

    In the last few months, the Hungarian Dietetic Association (HDA) addressed this issue on many different media platforms.

    Nutrition therapy introduced by professional dietitians is a crucial factor in treating COVID infected patients and in the survival of critically ill COVID patients and the ones with its complications.

    One of the most common symptoms of COVID is the loss of sense of smell and taste which, arm in arm with high fever, coughing, severe fatigue, immobility, can easily lead to the loss of appetite or the will to eat. Many patients that need hospitalization or intensive care arrive at the hospital already in a malnourished state. Therefore, COVID patients must go through malnutrition screening at the hospital admission. Medical nutrition therapy should be subscribed based on the screening results. The professional dietitians' job is to plan the nutrition therapy of these patients, including enteral/parenteral feeding if necessary. Adequate energy and protein intake directly affect the outcome of hospital COVID-treatment, and it is a critical factor in rehabilitating or treating long COVID symptoms.

    Many patients with COVID infection need respiration support. These patients typically spend days or even weeks on the machine, during which period they are unable to eat or or drink independently, it can even be impossible to implement oral feeding for them. 

    It is essential that both during the period of active COVID infection and long COVID minimize the loss of muscle mass. In these cases, the loss 

    of muscle mass can measure up to 70% of total weight loss, which is a relevant risk factor that negatively affects the chances of full recovery and can also be a risk factor for increasing the possibility of developing severe complications extending hospital stay. Moreover, these risks increasingly affect the elderly and those already living with chronic diseases, emphasizing well-planned and individualized nutritional strategies.
    Even after release from the hospital in the case of chronic loss of appetite, the proper energy and protein intake should be provided by nutritional formulas if necessary.

    The HDA addressed this issue on different media platforms:
    - two posts were published on Facebook, which reached nearly 13K people and generated hundreds of activities and shares
    - two press materials were released in February ("The Risks of Malnutrition - Malnutrition can lower the chances of COVID survival by 20%") and March ("Hints and tips in case of COVID-19 infection"). Results: 120K EUR PR value was generated, outreach: 4.3 Mio readers
    - stakeholder engagement: in close collaboration with the Hungarian Society of Clinical Nutrition, the HDA sent out an information letter on the importance of proper nutrition in IC to its members