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The Clinical Nutrition Market: A Look at the Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the global clinical nutrition market in important ways, with significant implications going forward. Here’s what clinical nutrition manufacturers need to know.

Highlights:

  • COVID related hospitalizations have highlighted demand for clinical nutrition products that address risks associated with obesity, diabetes, and other conditions.
  • Increased mindless eating habits and a decrease in physical activity has called for nutritional products that focus on satiety by providing protein and fiber. 

Impacts of COVID-19 on Clinical Nutrition Needs

Nutrition has been a key topic during the COVID crisis—from using nutrition to bolster the immune system against COVID to supporting COVID patients during their hospital stays. On the clinical nutrition front, the influences of COVID have been multifaceted. Some of these factors are also expected to influence the clinical nutrition market in the post-pandemic period.

1. Hospitalization of COVID Patients

Clinical nutrition products have been essential for hospitalized COVID patients, who often have long stays of one to two weeks when on ventilation. Since those at risk for serious effects from COVID include the elderly, obese, and those with chronic diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases, clinical nutrition must also address these condition-specific needs.

2. Management of Post-COVID Syndrome

Post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, also called post-COVID syndrome or long COVID, is a group of health problems that can occur after COVID recovery. Post-COVID syndrome can include lingering heart inflammation and lung problems, long-term kidney damage, and possibly the development of type 2 diabetes. These problems can occur even among those with mild COVID symptoms. 

3. Delayed Elective Surgeries

As hospitals and other healthcare facilities became inundated with COVID patients, shifting priorities led many facilities to postpone patients’ elective surgeries. Related factors included bed shortages, social distancing requirements, and a reduction in staff and staff hours. The decrease in elective surgeries during COVID affected the need for postoperative nutrition products.

4. Altered Eating Behaviors

Stress, social isolation, and shifts in daily routines during COVID lockdowns have led many people to adopt new, often unhealthy, eating patterns. This has ranged from more mindless snacking to eating more high-fat and high-sugar comfort foods, which can contribute to overweight/obesity and metabolic syndrome. Nutrition for satiety (with a focus on fiber and proteins) and bioactives for weight loss can help address this.

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5. Fewer Births

Declining birth rates have been a trend in higher-income countries during the pandemic. This so-called baby bust is attributed to the tendency for couples to postpone having a baby during hard or uncertain economic times. For the clinical nutrition market, this has impacted the demand for prenatal and postpartum nutrition products, as well as neonatal and infant nutrition products.

6. Rise in Mental Health Problems

Anxiety and depression have been on the rise during the pandemic, impacting wellbeing and leading to additional health problems like insomnia. Nutrition is typically a part of the multi-pronged approach to treating mental health problems. A healthy, balanced diet is important, as well as ensuring adequate levels of key micronutrients that influence brain function—especially vitamin D, magnesium, B vitamins, and iron.

7. Increases in Alcohol Consumption

During the pandemic, there has also been an increase in the use of alcohol, likely as a way to cope with stress. Excessive drinking has many negative health effects that can require clinical nutrition support. It inhibits nutrient absorption and displaces nutritious foods, leading to deficiencies in micronutrients and can lead to weight gain. In the long term, it can cause heart and liver damage, as well as cancer.

8. Less Physical Activity

COVID lockdowns have altered people’s eating behaviors and physical activity routines. Besides an increased risk of overweight and obesity, a lack of physical activity can lead to weaker muscles and bones. This is especially problematic for elderly people who are already experiencing sarcopenia or osteoporosis. Proteins and bioactives for muscle building and bone support can play an important role here.

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9. More Food Insecurity

Pandemic-related supply chain issues and economic challenges have impacted food availability and prices, causing more people to become food insecure. In lower-income countries, this is linked to growing malnutrition which impacts disease resistance and, in children, proper growth and development. In higher-income countries, continued food price inflation is driving some to seek out lower-cost foods at the expense of healthy nutrition. 

What’s Ahead for the Clinical Nutrition Market

Looking ahead, expect the rise in unhealthy habits during the pandemic to influence the need for clinical nutrition support—particularly for diseases related to nutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity. The post-pandemic period may also see an uptick in elective surgeries and a potential baby boom, both with clinical nutrition implications. In addition, caring for the growing aging population will remain an important focus of clinical nutrition.

At Glanbia Nutritionals, our high-quality, safe, and effective ingredients can help your brand make nutrition products that can meet the needs of today and tomorrow. Learn about our clinical nutrition solutions—from vitamin and mineral based custom nutrient premixes to proteins to bioactives for weight management, heart health, immune support, and more.

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