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Today’s Dietician featured CHP Professor Christen Cupples Cooper's piece: "Food Insecurity During COVID-19"

09/23/2020

Today’s Dietician featured CHP Professor Christen Cupples Cooper's piece: "Food Insecurity During COVID-19"

An Overview of Nutrition’s Importance, the Impact on the US Food Supply, and the Role RDs May Play in the Future

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of this writing, the COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in nearly 5 million confirmed cases and 160,000 deaths in the United States alone. The health threat of the pandemic and the directives put in place to control it—social distancing, sheltering at home, and limiting business and school activities—have altered food accessibility, safety, and prices worldwide.1

The United States’ complex food system, in which many products are grown or manufactured far from its end consumers, struggled to adopt new ways of doing business with reduced staffing, new safety procedures, and a declining global economy.2

Good nutrition is a pillar of resilience in times of crisis.2 A lack of nutritious food puts individuals at a disadvantage for preventing and fighting the coronavirus. Adequate macronutrient and micronutrient intake, particularly of iron, zinc, and vitamins B6, B12, A, and E, can help prevent and fight infection by boosting immune function.3 These are important for triggering, interaction, differentiation, and functional expression of immune cells.2 In an article published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in April 2020, Muscogiuri and colleagues recommended a Mediterranean-style diet featuring important immune-boosting foods, especially antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, to boost immunity against COVID-19.4

Optimal nutrition also supports good mental health and can help individuals cope with the anxiety, uncertainty, and psychological stress posed by COVID-19.5 Nicole Eichinger, RD, LD, owner of Nutrition’s My Life, LLC, in San Diego, reports that the vast majority of her clients have sought help for stress reduction, better sleep, and better gut health during the crisis. She says stress likely led to cases and relapses of numerous conditions among clients. “I’ve had someone who had her [thyroid-stimulating hormone] double since COVID-19. I saw autoimmune disorders and someone who might have had a Lyme disease relapse,” Eichinger says.

Such stories are a reminder that helping clients focus on nutrient-dense foods amid their immensely altered daily routines is crucial.

Since the stresses of the pandemic may lead individuals to revert to less healthful coping behaviors, good nutrition is particularly important for those with alcohol misuse and eating disorders.6 Food quality and quantity also play important roles in overall health during COVID-19. In a time of crisis, a craving for comfort foods, especially high-calorie, nutrient-poor varieties, can lead to health issues that last well beyond the pandemic.4

Read the full Today’s Dietician article.