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Danone’s Nutricia grants US$1m for global nutrition research for COVID-19 patients

May 28, 2020
Food & Drink

Danone’s nutrition health arm, Nutricia, is supporting research from independent medical professionals to define guidelines for nutritional care for COVID-19 patients recovering after intensive care unit (ICU) discharge.

Over the coming weeks, other clinician-initiated research projects in 16 countries around the world will be supported by Nutricia with grants totalling approximately €1 million (US$1.1 million). The company is also supporting healthcare organizations in different countries through the donation of medical nutrition products enriched with calories and proteins, which are designed to help patients regain lost weight and strength after recovering from a serious illness, such as COVID-19.

“We, as a global healthcare community and companies operating in healthcare, need to learn more about the recovery process because COVID-19 patients are being affected in ways we are still trying to understand. The funding we are providing for research is intended to help the advancement of science and development of knowledge about the impact of nutrition during recovery of COVID-19 and support the healthcare communities in the countries where we operate,” Patrick Kamphuis, Senior Medical Affairs Director at Nutricia, tells NutritionInsight.

“As with many other severe illnesses, discharge from hospital after a COVID-19 infection is only the start of recovery. Unfortunately, the importance of adapted nutrition and exercise in the recovery process is often underestimated. Through these grants for independent research by healthcare professionals, and medical nutrition product donations to healthcare organizations, we hope to contribute to patient recovery from COVID-19 and support healthcare systems across the world in delivering better care outcomes,” he adds.

Earlier this week, the important role of dieticians in helping to improve COVID-19 outcomes was highlighted by the European Federation of the Associations of Dietitians (EFAD). Good nutrition can help boost recovery and dietitians are experts in assessing the nutritional demands of each individual patient, according to the organization. Moreover, depending on the case, a tailored dietary regime may help boost patient-specific deficiencies and speed recovery.

The topic is high on the agenda of EFAD and we value and support their efforts in this regard; indeed Nutricia supported their recent webinar on the topic,” Kamphuis says.

Fonterra’s NZMP also highlighted the malnutrition risks that COVID-19 patients may face, in particular when they are seriously ill. NZMP’s Medical Nutrition team is using its platform to highlight guidelines issued by the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) (formerly European Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition), which include guidance on the use of supplements in a range of possible scenarios.

Improve clinical nutrition for recovery
Nutricia notes that the symptoms, characteristics and treatment options of the COVID-19 disease are becoming increasingly understood as the global pandemic progresses. However, the rehabilitation requirements for those who have overcome severe COVID-19 infections in ICU are not yet as widely known. The average duration of stay in ICUs in the US and Europe is generally two days. However, critically ill COVID-19 patients may be admitted to ICUs for as long as two weeks, according to Nutricia.

ICU patients can lose as much as a kilogram of muscle mass per day, and so an elongated stay can result in severe depletion of muscle mass, strength and resilience. Loss of lean body mass can lead to significantly adverse outcomes, including impaired immune function, overall weakness, development of wounds and /or pressure ulcers, and even increased mortality rates.

As a result, people leave the hospital weakened, sometimes hardly able to undergo rehabilitation programs and unable to perform the activities of daily living like personal hygiene, preparing and eating food or going outside for a walk.

“It is important to initially note, nutrition is part of an overall health management approach, and is not directly related to COVID-19 prevention or treatment,” Kamphuis notes. “We do know, however, that medical nutrition can positively contribute to clinical outcomes and quality of life for patients with a variety of conditions and diseases.”

Currently there is limited COVID-19 specific guidance on nutritional care after hospital discharge to address the needs of recovering coronavirus patients. Dr. Riccardo Caccialanza, Head of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition Unit at the IRCCS Policlinico San Matteo Foundation in Pavia, Italy, is one of the first medical experts globally to begin research into the impact of nutrition and physical exercise in regaining functional ability and improving quality of life as patients start their recovery from COVID-19 at home. His research project will be the first to receive part of the Nutricia funding.

Dr. Caccialanza, who has first-hand experience in overseeing the nutritional care for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, is now signalling the need to continue nutritional support as patients recover after hospital discharge.

In Italy so far we have seen the complications related to this loss of lean body mass can lead to lengthier patient recovery times – and this requires more resources from already stretched healthcare systems. There is a need for clinical guidance to optimize the recovery of patients and help them regain the ability to perform day-to-day tasks at home. Patients need to have the strength and energy to do those things that matter most to them,” he stresses.

Nutricia’s COVID-19 support initiatives include ongoing education programs by and for healthcare professionals about the role of nutrition in patient care and recovery, as well as support resources for patients and carers.

Nutricia says it has taken radical measures to protect the safety of its employees, support its trading partners as well as strengthen the resilience of its value chain. Meanwhile, Danone has provided financial support to partners in its ecosystem such as farmers, suppliers and smaller customers. The company has also extended help to healthcare organizations in many countries around the world to address the major health consequences this unprecedented situation creates.

To keep readers informed of these rapid developments, NutritionInsight is updating its daily news feed for the coronavirus-related information and insights you need to guide your business through this challenging period.

By: Kristiana Lalou

Source: Nutrition Insight

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