The role of medical nutrition in recovery from severe illness - learnings from COVID-19

Nutrition support is an integral part of optimal patient care at every step towards recovery.

Discharge of a patient from ICU is a success and will come as a great relief. However, for many this is also the start of a long journey towards recovery. Physical and functional impairment resulting from extensive muscle loss can last for weeks or months1, and ensuring optimal recovery for all patients with COVID-19 is a major challenge to address. Experts and medical societies highlight the need to integrate ongoing nutritional support along the healthcare continuum, starting from the ICU and continuing after discharge from the hospital1,2.

COVID-19 elderly lady sunset

We need to take responsibility for outcomes not just in the ICU but also always be focused on what interventions we are taking each day to affect what happens after the ICU.(…) Not only think about the present, but also about the future of our patients.

Prof. Paul Wischmeyer (US)

Optimal nutritional care

Prof Paul Wischmeyer, Prof Artur van Zanten and Dr Anne Holdoway review how to support recovery with the right nutritional management along the continuum of care - from the ICU to the ward, and during recovery after discharge from the hospital. Visit the Danone Nutricia Campus to watch the full webinar.

Watch full webinar

The NutriCOVer program supports research on nutrition and COVID-19 recovery

Real-world evidence on nutritional management in COVID-19 is needed optimize clinical practice and improve patient care. The NutriCOVer program was launched in May 2020 to support independent research on nutrition and COVID-19 recovery around the world.


These initiatives aim to improve knowledge on nutritional needs during COVID-19 recovery after discharge and explore benefits of targeted nutritional interventions. These findings can contribute the evidence base for optimizing nutritional management in recovery from acute illness.

Learn more about the NutriCOVer program


New evidence on nutritional challenges and the role of medical nutrition in COVID‍-‍19 recovery

Findings from studies receiving support from the NutriCOVer program contributes to the growing evidence revealing a high burden of malnutrition in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 3,4,5.



  • Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 experience several challenges impacting nutritional intakes, such as loss of taste and smell, loss of appetite or fatigue4,5. In addition, 1 out of 2 patients suffered from oropharyngeal dysphagia3.
  • Up to 2 out of 3 patients developed malnutrition in the hospital in a national study in France, with a rapid weight loss of 6.5kg was observed4.
  • At discharge after COVID-19 infection, 3 out of 4 patients were at risk of sarcopenia, i.e. muscle loss5.

After discharge, patients require ongoing nutritional support including oral nutritional supplement (ONS) when needed to support them as they regain weight and strength, and progressively return to their usual appetite and weight 2-4.

ESPEN experts highlight the need to prevent, screen and manage malnutrition in COVID-19 patients2. Management strategies include oral nutritional supplements (ONS) for patients who are not able to meet their nutritional needs, in order to mitigate the negative impact of malnutrition and support recovery after the acute phase of the illness.

New COVID-19 data

A randomized controlled study in 185 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Russia explored the benefits of an intervention with  Nutridrink (also known as Fortimel) oral nutritional supplement (ONS) in addition to regular diet compared to standard hospital diet alone6.

The supplementation with the ONS resulted in:

  • An improved muscle function (handgrip strength) and physical function.
  • A length of hospitalization 3.3 days shorter, and a reduction in duration of respiratory support by 1.4 days6.


Lead investigator Dr Kirill Krylov is associate professor of the Department of Intensive Care at the Pirogov Medical University in Moscow, Russia. Watch this video from the Nutricia Global Event in May 2021 where Dr Krylov provides more details on the trial.

A call for action for better nutrition therapy during recovery from severe illness

The COVID-19 pandemic cast a light on the role of nutrition during recovery. New research and learnings can be used to inform nutritional therapy protocols along the phases of recovery, and to support better integration of nutritional management in patient care. Watch an interactive session where international experts discuss learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect on opportunities to improve current practice.

Watch a summary of an interactive session where international experts discussed learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect on opportunities to improve current practice. The full session can be viewed on Danone Nutricia Campus (healthcare professionals only) 

Watch full session

COVID-19 is probably only a disease model that stresses even more compared to the past the importance of taking care of the patients and the importance of good nutritional care. The idea is to have an assertive nutrition approach starting early in the early phases to improve recovery, to have a faster recovery and earlier return to pre-illness condition.

Dr Emanuele Cereda (Italy)
Nutricia introduces healthcare professionals to open science education platform Danone Nutricia Campus

Join Danone Nutricia Campus

Learn more on recent evidence on nutrition for patients with COVID-19 during and after hospitalization on Danone Nutricia Campus.

The aim of Danone Nutricia Campus is to advance the fields of nutrition through knowledge discovery, scientific insights and medical education for healthcare professionals. Danone Nutricia Campus is for healthcare professionals only.

Register here
Nutricia COVID-19 icu recovery grandpa 380 2160 px

Out of ICU and into recovery is only the beginning

For many patients, discharge from ICU may be just the beginning of their recovery. Tailored nutritional support, along with physical rehabilitation could help patients recover lost strength and enable an earlier return to their normal lives.


New patient survey highlights need for more focus on nutrition as part of COVID-19 recovery

New patient survey presented at ESPEN congress highlights need for more focus on nutrition as part of COVID-19 recovery, research shows high prevalence of weight loss and eating challenges in people recovering from COVID-19