Author: Hayley Every

Nutrition and COVID-19 Recovery

A new study looks at information and resources available to patients

Can we improve the recovery process of COVID-19 patients by giving them more information on nutrition, exercise, and emotional support? A Food4Health online survey conducted in five European countries gave useful insights into the counselling of patients and their caregivers.

People who are recovering from COVID-19 often suffer from fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches and loss, loss of smell and taste, depression, or forgetfulness. 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. One of the most important aspects of promoting overall health and recovery is to prevent and treat malnutrition and muscle loss. The right foods and exercise are important for them to get better. This is not easy, as people may experience symptoms that make eating and exercising a challenge. Adequate information can help individuals make the best choices for their recovery. But do patients and their caregivers receive the right information? A survey from Food4Health – a collaboration between EIT Health and EIT Food – with support from Abbott, a global healthcare company, provides insight into how nutrition education may help recovery from COVID-19.

Raising awareness on the role of nutrition on recovery

“Food4Health wants to create international awareness about the importance of nutrition in recovery,” says Hayley Every, cross-KIC program manager for Food4Health. “So in this study on the recovery of COVID-19, we included patients and caregivers from five countries – the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy and Germany.”

The study included 112 respondents – 36 patients and 76 caregivers. Most of the patients suffered from mild or moderate symptoms. The survey asked them about their main sources of information or advice, whether they had received information on the role of nutrition, exercise and emotional support, and whether these elements were included in the treatment. A goal was to understand whether the patients were given meal plans and/or oral nutritional supplements and if they considered these to be beneficial to their recovery. Finally, the survey included questions to better understand if individuals would be interested in additional information and how they would like to receive this – from their healthcare provider, the internet, the media or other. Gathering insights from five different countries was a priority to better understand if the outcomes were different per country, and how information can be tailored country-by-country or at the level of the healthcare professionals and patients.

Nearly half of COVID-19 patients were not adequately informed on nutrition

A healthy diet and exercise can contribute greatly to a quick recovery and people’s well-being. In relation to COVID-19, people who suffer from obesity or malnutrition are linked to worse outcomes and increased infection risks. The nutritional status of people with COVID-19 is critical as it can impact immune response and the severity of illness. In addition, research has shown the importance of nutrition for muscle health maintenance and improvement, which is key during recovery, not only during hospitalization but also after discharge. The European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) produced expert statements and practical guidance for the nutritional management of individuals with sars-cov-2 infection.

“Unfortunately, this information often does not reach the patients and their caregivers,” says Esther Castanys Munoz, PhD, a nutrition scientist at Abbott. “About 50% of the respondents did not receive information on nutritional supplements and exercise, so there is room for improvement.”

When asked about their preferred source of information, many respondents indicated, especially in the United Kingdom, that they would like to receive more information by telemedicine or remote consultation. The patients who did not receive the information also did not get oral nutritional supplements.

A call for early nutrition intervention

When asked about nutritional support received, there were no great differences between the five countries. In the UK and Spain, fewer survey respondents received nutritional supplements, but of all respondents who did receive them, 80% believe the nutritional supplements helped in their recovery.

“In Europe, we must keep raising awareness on the importance of adequate nutrition and exercise, not only in the case of COVID-19 but in general, as a means of prevention and of recovery,” states Maria Camprubi, PhD, a nutrition scientist at Abbott. “This study showed us the gaps in the treatment and indicated that there is opportunity to give better information and nutritional supplements, especially when individuals are recovering at home.”

The Abbott Nutrition Health Institute (ANHI) will share information and materials with healthcare professionals related to the survey on its website (anhi.org), which also contains many other educational resources. In addition, EIT Health will disseminate the results of the survey on the EIT Health website and social channels.

Spreading the word about Food4Health

Food4Health presents at two events

The Food4Health team has been pleased to present our activities at two events. The first event was an exhibition at Munich Airport in June and July, and the second was a presentation at the Global Food Innovation Forum on 24 June. These events have allowed us to spread the word about our activities in Food4Health.

Exhibition at Munich Airport

During challenging COVID-19 pandemic times, a unique way to present EIT Food, CLC Central, and Food4Health to a broader general audience was an exhibition at Munich Airport. Over 1,854.000 passengers travelling abroad or returning to Munich in June and July 2021 had the chance to visit the exhibition. It took place in a showroom near the arrivals area. Inside the showroom, there were eight movable walls. Posters on both sides gave a comprehensive overview of all activity areas of EIT Food and CLC Central. In addition, the Cross-KIC activity Food4Health and the two innovation projects STOP MetSyn and MuscleCancer were presented. A QR-code was placed on the walls and could be scanned, which linked to the Food4Health webpage for further information. Forty airport owned screens located around the terminal promoted the exhibition.

Yu-Mi Lee at the Munich Airport exhibition

Global Food Innovation Forum

Food4Health had the opportunity to present at the Global Food Innovation Forum on 24 June 2021. Taking place at the Real Sito di Carditello (San Tammaro, district of Caserta) and online, the Agriculture Department of the Campania Region organised this hybrid event. Agribusiness is at the centre of food security, food safety, economic, environmental, and social sustainability for supply chains and rural areas. The Global Food Innovation Forum was a unique opportunity for the agriculture and fisheries of the region to engage with the European and global innovation trajectories. The event aimed to strengthen the collaboration and exchange between the main stakeholders of the regional system and the leading players globally.

Food4Health participated in the session on “Trends and scenarios for innovating in the agri and food system: the way forward and the next normal”. Dr Hayley Every presented the goals and ambitions of the Food4Health collaboration, highlighting the importance of healthy food in improving and sustaining the wellbeing of all European citizens.

Hayley Every presenting at the Global Food Innovation Forum

Food4Health at Festa de la Ciència

Creating awareness about the importance of diet in the prevention and treatment of cancer

On 13 June 2021, Raul Zamora Ros and Alba Ribalta, researchers from the Unit of Nutrition and Cancer at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), participated in the 14th edition of the “Festa de la Ciència” (The Party of Science) in Barcelona. Organized by the city council, this event aims to create awareness of the science conducted by Catalan Universities and Research Centers for the general community. The team from IDIBELL presented a workshop entitled “The Mediterranean Diet and the Prevention of Cancer” to disseminate insights from the MuscleCancer project. The workshop consisted of two parts. The first part involved an informational talk on cancer, its risk factors, and the importance of diet in cancer prevention and during cancer treatment. The second part was an interactive talk where the audience answered questions about the foods and their frequency of consumption included in a Mediterranean Diet using the Kahoot! application. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the participants in the workshop were very active. They gave very positive feedback and encouraged the IDIBELL team to perform similar workshops in the future.

STOP MetSyn Pilot Studies

Would you like to get healthier, fitter and feel more energetic?

Knowing what to eat and being physically more active can be challenging.

The Food4Health project STOP MetSyn has designed a program that uses your biological data to help you build healthy habits! You have the freedom to choose your own goals, focussing on healthy eating and physical activity. You will also work with a coach who will support you in setting achievable goals and reaching them!

The overarching goal of the project is to assess the capacity of a lifestyle intervention to alter the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. People with metabolic syndrome have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes type 2. The main risk factors attributed to metabolic syndrome are:

  • high blood pressure
  • increased blood glucose
  • increased blood lipid levels
  • increased waist circumference

Detecting and treating these risk factors as soon as possible helps to prevent the development of metabolic syndrome. Fortunately, it is reversible through lifestyle changes.

Within the STOP MetSyn project, two pilot studies will assess the efficacy of the intervention programs – Hello Health and the STOP MetSyn pilot. In both studies, the intervention comprises personalised coaching together with relevant advice and support via an app. This combined approach aims at long-term behaviour change in participants to achieve sustainable improvement of metabolic syndrome risk factors.

Hello Health is a three-month program offered in Belgium. SmartWithFood is overseeing the study in collaboration with Colruyt Group, UGent, KULeuven, TUM, and RISE. During the study, the participants receive advice on nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mind & stress via the SmartWithFood app and my.smartwithfood.com. Health coaches will also give personalised guidance during three 1-on-1 sessions.

For the STOP MetSyn pilot, TUM conducts the study in Munich, Germany and RISE in Gothenburg, Sweden. The intervention targets people at risk of metabolic syndrome, which makes up a considerable share of our general population. The participants receive personal coaching on nutrition, exercise, and wellbeing, and an app-based program providing tips, tricks, tasks, and the opportunity to interact with fellow participants. The team will compare the observed changes to a control group that does not receive an intervention.

Both studies will run until the end of the year, with the first results expected in early 2022. From the outcomes of the studies, the research teams will evaluate whether lifestyle interventions improve health and wellbeing through behaviour change.

Preventing Metabolic Syndrome

Online survey with 200 adults on healthy living

Metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) represents a clustering of conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and diabetes. MetSyn is present in approximately 25% of all adults with increased prevalence in advanced ages. What is commonly unknown is that having MetSyn increases the risk of developing other serious diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. Many people exhibit the risk factors but are not even aware of their condition. This undiagnosed (pre-disease) state could be reversed through changes in diet and lifestyle, thus preventing MetSyn and reducing this major health threat to European citizens.

The STOP MetSyn project, an innovation project running within Food4Health, aims at developing an intervention programme that allows for diagnosis, interventions, and monitoring to prevent Metabolic Syndrome. The programme combines baseline measurements of health status, goal setting and meal/exercise plans, interaction with a health coach, and challenges.

In an online survey using the platform Ipsos with a panel of 200 adult citizens based in Germany, the co-creation activity aimed at gaining insights to be used to verify the target group and their needs the programme is aiming at in the pilot study. Here is an overview of the 200 participants that took part in the survey including information on household size, number of children living in the household, and the region where they are living in.

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EIT Food is a network of industry, academic and research partners, set up to transfer our food system. By connecting consumers with businesses, start-ups researchers and students from around Europe, EIT Food supports innovative initiatives that improve our health, our access to quality food and our environment.


EIT Health is a network of best-in-class health innovators backed by the EU. We deliver solutions to enable European citizens to live longer, healthier lives by promoting innovation. We connect the right people to work on societal challenges across European borders so that innovation can happen at the intersection of research, education and business.