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COVID-19 and Micronutrients Resource Hub

The Micronutrient Forum is aggregating updates, guidance, blogs, opinion pieces and peer-reviewed articles relevant to micronutrients and the COVID-19 pandemic.  There is currently a lot of information being shared about micronutrient nutrition and the pandemic and it can be challenging to quickly identify credible information and insights.

In addition to the immediate impact on health and society, the COVID-19 pandemic may result in significant short- and long-term disruptions to food systems, increasing and complicating the global prevalence of all forms of malnutrition, including micronutrient malnutrition. Micronutrient nutrition is particularly important during this health crisis because good micronutrient nutrition reduces the risk of infectious and non-communicable diseases whereas; micronutrient malnutrition impairs optimal growth and development and can leave people vulnerable to comorbidities.

  • Optimal Nutritional Status for a Well-Functioning Immune System is an Important Factor to Protect Against Viral Infections (Preprints 2020, 2020030199)
    Abstract: Public health practices including handwashing and vaccinations help reduce the spread and impact of infections. Nevertheless, the global burden of infection is high, and additional measures are necessary. Acute respiratory tract infections, for example, are responsible for approximately 2.65 million deaths per year. The role nutrition plays in supporting the immune system is well-established. A wealth of mechanistic and clinical data show that vitamins, including vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E, and folate; trace elements, including zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper; and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid play important and complementary roles in supporting the immune system. Inadequate intake and status of these nutrients are widespread, leading to a decrease in resistance to infections and as a consequence an increase in disease burden. Against this background the following conclusions are made: 1) Supplementation with the above micronutrients and omega-3 fatty acids is a safe, effective, and low-cost strategy to help support optimal immune function; 2) Supplementation above the RDA, but within recommended upper safety limits, for specific nutrients such as vitamins C and D is warranted; and 3) Public health officials are encouraged to include nutritional strategies in their recommendations to improve public health.
  • Program Experience with Micronutrient Powders and Current Evidence (The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 142, Issue 1, January 2012, Pages 191S–196S)
    Abstract: The efficacy of micronutrient powders (MNP) in the treatment of anemia in moderately anemic children aged 6–24 mo has been clearly demonstrated. The evidence of the effectiveness of MNP in large-scale programs, however, is scarce. This article describes the program experience and findings of large-scale MNP distribution in refugee camps and in an emergency context in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Kenya. The MNP contained 15–16 micronutrients as per the WHO/World Food Programme/UNICEF joint statement, whereas the iron content was reduced to 2.5 mg from NaFeEDTA in a malaria-endemic area in Kenya. Hundreds of thousands of children aged 6–59 mo and pregnant and lactating women were targeted to consume MNP either daily or every other day over an extended period of time. Extensive social marketing campaigns were undertaken to promote regular use of the product. A number of studies were embedded in the programs to assess the impact of MNP on the nutritional status of target beneficiaries. Some improvements in anemia prevalence estimates were observed in particular subgroups, but other results did not show significant improvements. A significant decrease in the prevalence of stunting was observed in Nepal and Kenya but not in Bangladesh. Diarrhea episodes decreased significantly among children receiving MNP in Nepal. A key challenge is to ensure high MNP acceptance and adherence among beneficiaries. Investigation of non-nutritional causes of anemia is warranted in settings with high compliance but no improvement in hemoglobin status. Further investigation into the most appropriate manner to use MNP in malaria endemic settings is warranted.
  • A qualitative study to understand how Ebola Virus Disease affected nutrition in Sierra Leone—A food value-chain framework for improving future response strategies (PLoS Negl Trop Dis 13(9): e0007645. h, September 2019)
    Abstract: Background This study sought understand how the 2014–2016 EVD Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak impacted the nutrition sector in Sierra Leone and use findings for improving nutrition responses during future outbreaks of this magnitude.
    Results The EVD outbreak effects and the related response strategies, especially movement restriction policies including 21-day quarantines, contributed to disruptions across the food value-chain in Sierra Leone. System-wide impacts were similar to those typically seen in large-scale disasters such as earthquakes. Participants described an array of direct and indirect effects on agricultural production and food storage and processing, as well as on distribution, transport, trade, and retailing. Secondary data were triangulated by interviews which described the aggregate negative effect of this outbreak on key pillars of food security, infant and young child feeding practices, and nutrition. During the humanitarian response, nutrition-specific interventions, including food assistance, were highly accepted, although sharing was reported. Despite EVD impacts across the entire food value-chain, nutrition-sensitive interventions were not central to the initial response as EVD containment and survival took priority. Culturally-appropriate social and behavior change communications were a critical response component for improving health, nutrition, and hygiene-related behaviors through community engagement.
    Conclusions Infectious diseases such as EVD have far-reaching effects that impact health and nutrition through interrelated pathways. In Sierra Leone, the entire food value-chain was broken to the extent that the system-wide damage was on par with that typically resulting from large natural disasters. A food value-chain approach, at minimum, offers a foundational framework from which to position nutrition preparedness and response efforts for outbreaks in similar resource constrained settings.

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