Early nutritional supplementation in non-critically ill patients hospitalized for the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Rationale and feasibility of a shared pragmatic protocol

Nutrition. 2020 Jun:74:110835. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2020.110835. Epub 2020 Apr 3.


Objectives: Beginning in December 2019, the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has caused a pneumonia epidemic that began in Wuhan, China, and is rapidly spreading throughout the whole world. Italy is the hardest hit country after China. Considering the deleterious consequences of malnutrition, which certainly can affect patients with COVID-19, the aim of this article is to present a pragmatic protocol for early nutritional supplementation of non-critically ill patients hospitalized for COVID-19 disease. It is based on the observation that most patients present at admission with severe inflammation and anorexia leading to a drastic reduction of food intake, and that a substantial percentage develops respiratory failure requiring non-invasive ventilation or even continuous positive airway pressure.

Methods: High-calorie dense diets in a variety of different consistencies with highly digestible foods and snacks are available for all patients. Oral supplementation of whey proteins as well as intravenous infusion of multivitamin, multimineral trace elements solutions are implemented at admission. In the presence of 25-hydroxyvitamin D deficit, cholecalciferol is promptly supplied. If nutritional risk is detected, two to three bottles of protein-calorie oral nutritional supplements (ONS) are provided. If <2 bottles/d of ONS are consumed for 2 consecutive days and/or respiratory conditions are worsening, supplemental/total parenteral nutrition is prescribed.

Conclusion: We are aware that our straight approach may be debatable. However, to cope with the current emergency crisis, its aim is to promptly and pragmatically implement nutritional care in patients with COVID-19, which might be overlooked despite being potentially beneficial to clinical outcomes and effective in preventing the consequences of malnutrition in this patient population.

Keywords: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19); Malnutrition; Nutritional support; Oral nutritional supplements; Pragmatic protocol; Vitamin D; Whey proteins.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • COVID-19
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy*
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Whey Proteins / administration & dosage


  • Whey Proteins
  • Vitamin D