Malnutrition May Lead to More Severe COVID-19 Outcomes

Patients with a history of malnutrition had higher odds of developing severe disease.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Albany Medical College, in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, has discovered that adults and children who have a history of malnutrition may have an increased risk of death and the need for mechanical ventilation when infected with COVID-19.

Results from the study were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Balanced nutritional intake during the progression of and recovery from any illness is important for improvement in health outcomes,” the authors wrote. “Therefore, it is expected that malnutrition may have deleterious effects on the prognosis of the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and therefore require proper attention.”

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed medical records of 8,604 children and 94,495 adults who were hospitalized due to an infection with COVID-19, between March and June of 2020.

Patients who had a malnutrition diagnosis between 2015 and 2019 were then compared to patients who did not have a malnutrition diagnosis.

Findings from the study showed that of the 520 children with severe COVID-19, 7.5% had a previous history of malnutrition, compared to 1.5% of 7,959 children with mild COVID-19. Of 11,423 adults with severe COVID-19, 4% had a previous history of malnutrition, compared to 1.8% of 81,515 patients with mild COVID-19.

Additionally, children older than 5 and adults between the ages of 18 and 78 years who had a previous history of malnutrition were seen to have higher odds than those without a history of malnutrition

“While the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to increased incidence of malnutrition, malnourished patients or patients at risk of malnutrition are also at risk of suffering more severe forms of the disease. Preexisting disparities and new disparities created by COVID-19 may increase health care risks,” the authors wrote. “It is therefore critical that additional studies are carried out and that public health policies affecting patients most at risk for COVID-19 and malnutrition be carefully weighed, in what may be a double-edged sword for patients at risk of malnutrition.”