Malnutrition increases risk of death for hospitalized COVID-19 patients

Published January 5, 2022

Published

picture of a patient laying in a hospital bed

University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) research shows that COVID-19 patients without proper nutrition make ventilation or death more likely. 

In patients hospitalized with COVID-19, malnutrition:

  • Increased the risk of mortality by 2.5 times
  • Increased the risk of being mechanically ventilated by 5.7 times

Medical nutrition expert Jana Ponce, PhD, led the study.

Certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are vital for healthy tissues and organs. Malnutrition means the body doesn't have enough nutrients. 

"Malnutrition can increase complications in hospitalized patients," Dr. Ponce says. "These results highlight the importance of early recognition of malnutrition risk and effective nutrition interventions in COVID-19 patients."

UNMC research improves and influences clinical care for Nebraska Medicine and vice versa. A four-year effort helps Nebraska Medicine care providers quickly identify patients with malnutrition.

"As a result, malnutrition diagnosis rates have increased by 12.9%," says medical nutrition expert Megan Timmerman, RD, LMNT. "And, an additional critical care nutrition therapist has been added to the team, providing increased and consistent coverage for COVID-19 patients."