Nutrition during quarantine: a discussion with Professor Annamaria Colao, University Federico II

Nutrition during quarantine: a discussion with Professor Annamaria Colao, University Federico II

We have had an opportunity today to speak with professor Annamaria Colao from University Federico II of Naples, Italy who has recently published an article on nutritional recommendations for quarantine.

COVID-19 is clearly a time of great stress for the general public and particularly for high risk groups like the elderly and people living with obesity. Can nutritional support help moderate this stress?  If so, which particular foods might you recommend?

Quarantine is associated with interruption of the usual work routine. This can result in boredom which in turn has been associated with greater energy intake, including consumption of higher quantities of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Further, duing quarantine and self-isolation, citizens are constantly hearing or reading about the pandemic, which without a break can be very stressful.  Consequently, this stress pushes people toward overeating, primarily through looking for sugary “comfort foods”.

Quarantine-related stress also results in sleep disturbances that in turn further worsen the stress response and increase food intake, giving rise to a vicious cycle. For these reasons, it is important to consume food containing or promoting the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin at dinner time. A considerable variety of plant species, including roots, leaves, fruits, and seeds such as almonds, bananas, cherries and oats contain melatonin and/or serotonin. These foods may also contain tryptophan which is a precursor of serotonin and melatonin. Protein foods such as milk and milk products are the main sources of the sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan.

Is there evidence that specific micro- nutrients can help moderate and support the immune response?

Several studies have reported that fruits and vegetables supplying micronutrients can boost immune function. This happens because some of these micronutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene are antioxidants. Beta carotene is most abundant in sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables while sources of vitamins C include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, lemons, and other fruits and vegetables. The major dietary sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils (soybean, sunflower, corn, wheat germ, and walnut oil), nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli.

In addition, quarantine may be associated with less time spent outdoors, less sunlight exposure and reduced production of vitamin D. which plays a key role in protecting the human respiratory tract against viral infections of the respiratory tract. Since time spent outdoors and consequent sun exposure is likely quite limited, we would encourage people to get more vitamin D from the diet. Foods containing vitamin D include fish, liver, egg yolk and fortified foods (e.g. milk, yogurt) with added vitamin D where available.

The article is published here: “Obesity is a risk factor for developing severe complications of COVID-19. It is paramount to prevent obesityat this time. Nutritional recommandations to be followed during self isolation”