The nutritional status of the elderly patient infected with COVID-19: the forgotten risk factor?

Curr Med Res Opin. 2021 Apr;37(4):549-554. doi: 10.1080/03007995.2021.1882414. Epub 2021 Feb 16.


Background: Since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Wuhan, the nutritional status of individuals infected with the virus has not been included in the risk profiles prepared. However, nutritional status, along with other factors, is decisive in the evolution of patients with other infectious diseases. The nutritional status of individuals is considered an indicator of health status. Furthermore, optimal nutritional status transcends the individual, and poor diet in a population can be considered a group risk factor. Evidence exists on the influence that diet has on the immune system and susceptibility to disease.

Objective: To evaluate the nutritional status of patients older than 65 years who were admitted due to COVID-19 and how this has influenced the evolution of patients.

Design: This prospective and observational study was performed in patients with COVID-19 infection confirmed by real-time polymerase chain reaction. Data were collected from the first 24 h of admission. All patients admitted during one month to the wards assigned to COVID-19 infection were included.

Results: A total of 83 patients were studied. The statistical study of mortality showed associations with age (p = .005), living in a nursing home (p = .022), a high Charlson Comorbidity Index (p = .039), hypertension (p = .032), comorbidities of dementia (p = .019) and cerebral vascular disease (p = .041), and Barthel Index (p = .010). The analysis of the influence of the nutritional state on mortality revealed a statistical association between malnutrition and mortality in the pooled data analysis (p = .005) and analysis by degrees of malnutrition (p = .27).

Conclusions: Malnutrition was a risk factor as powerful as others such as hypertension, age, and different comorbidities. We must evaluate and treat the nutritional status of elderly patients with COVID-19 infection since it directly affects their evolution.

Keywords: COVID-19; Nutritional status; elderly; risk factor.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19 / etiology*
  • COVID-19 / metabolism
  • COVID-19 / mortality
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malnutrition / complications*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • SARS-CoV-2*