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COVID-19 has boosted interest in functional foods that deliver wellbeing benefits like immunity and stress management. But while the pandemic may have accelerated this trend, functional foods are no flash in the pan, experts insisted at FoodNavigator’s Positive Nutrition Digital Summit yesterday.

To read the article click Functional food is no COVID fad: ‘Consumers have fundamentally changed their attitudes to health and wellness’

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The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the lives of families around the world. Across virtually every key measure of childhood, progress has gone backward in the 12 months since the pandemic was declared, leaving children confronting a devastating and distorted new normal.

The past year has seen an increase in children who have been left hungry, isolated, abused and anxious. The education of hundreds of millions of children has been disrupted. Access to protection services and health services – including routine vaccinations – has been severely impacted. The pandemic is also affecting young people’s mental health and pushing their families into poverty. Such social and economic disruptions can increase the likelihood of child marriage.

Even as remarkable, life-saving progress is made in distributing COVID-19 vaccines, the latest available data from UNICEF reveal the devastation already wrought on the world’s children:

To read the article: How the COVID-19 pandemic has scarred the world’s children

 

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Food in a Pandemic report published

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The Food in a Pandemic report, commissioned by the FSA and produced by Demos as part of Renew Normal: The People’s Commission on Life after Covid, looks to understand how a new food environment created during the pandemic has impacted the public’s behaviours and preferences. The research included: a nationally representative survey of 10,069 UK adults, a nationally representative online deliberative method called Polis with 1,006 UK respondents, a series of four deliberative workshops, and an open access survey of 911 adults.

Key findings on the public’s experience during the pandemic 

Food insecurity 

The report shows that people have stepped in to help prevent new forms of food insecurity caused by people self-isolating by offering informal forms of support such as shopping for others   

Findings also show there is a public appetite for the government to take action to help feed those without the means to feed themselves. People also tend to be more supportive of preventative actions for food insecurity, such as ensuring well-paid jobs are available to all. Just under two thirds (63%) agreed in the Polis that ‘it is the government’s responsibility to make sure no-one goes hungry’. 

UK food supply 

It’s reported a significant proportion of the population have bought food more locally or grown more food during the pandemic, reflecting a wider move towards individual self-sufficiency. Many of those who have made this move expect it to continue after the pandemic. 

78% of those surveyed supported the UK keeping its current food quality standards, even if food is more expensive and less competitive in the global market. A similar proportion (82%) also supported maintaining the UK’s current animal welfare standards, when presented with the same trade-off against prices and competitiveness. 

Diet and eating habits 

There has been a complex shift in people’s diets during Covid-19, with more home cooking. Although a third (32%) of respondents in the poll reported eating more healthy main meals, a third (33%) ate more unhealthy snacks. 

Some of the restrictions and public health advice, such as stay at home, might have encouraged more healthy eating. Those who have cooked more or eaten healthier main meals tend to expect this change to continue. However, this is likely to be somewhat dependent on the other changes, such as continued flexible working.  

Read full report.

 

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The assessment is based on 377 documents covering 62 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and the Americas.

The analysis reveals that the dimension of food security that has been most affected is accessibility. Both financial (affordability) and physical access to food have been disrupted, in particular in urban areas and in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). As a result, proximity and convenience have been affected with a degradation in food choice and diversity.

In contrast, there is no clear evidence that the availability of food has been affected beyond some initial disruptions and there is not enough information to provide robust conclusions about the effects of the pandemic on the utilization of food (safety or quality).

Finally, the impact of COVID-19 on the nutritional status of people is still poorly documented but expected to be substantial in the long run.

To download the publication, go here: Impacts of COVID-19 on people’s food security: Foundations for a more resilient food system

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A case control study, which has been peer reviewed and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, compared 596 618 people who were newly vaccinated in Israel and matched them to unvaccinated controls.1 Two doses of the mRNA vaccine reduced symptomatic cases by 94%, hospitalisation by 87%, and severe covid-19 by 92%, according to the data from the Clalit Institute for Research which is Israel’s biggest healthcare provider. Read the full article here.

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NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., February 27, 2021 – Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) (the Company) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to prevent COVID-19 in individuals 18 years of age and older. Read the full article here.

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Solving the obesity crisis

Obesity is on the rise; current initiatives and policies aimed at fighting obesity have been insufficient to reverse the trend. The success of tackling the obesity pandemic depends on governments, businesses and civil society working together to fix inadequacies in our food and health systems, focusing on better nutrition and diets for all.

This year, on World Obesity Day, it has never been more important to recognise that improving nutrition and addressing poor diets needs to be at the forefront of collective efforts to tackle obesity. The COVID-19 pandemic is interlinked with the slower, yet no less devastating pandemic of food and nutrition insecurity, obesity, diabetes and other diet-related conditions. The top predictors of severe COVID-19 complications, other than age, are diet-related risks such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. In fact, a recent global analysis suggests that being obese doubles the risk of hospital treatment and increases the risk of dying from Covid by nearly 50 percent.

To read more click here: Solving the obesity crisis

And here: COVID-19 and Obesity: The 2021 Atlas

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8634658853?profile=RESIZE_710xTable seeks to facilitate informed discussions about how the food system can become sustainable, resilient, just, and ultimately “good”. We impartially set out the evidence, assumptions, and values that people bring to food system debates. 

Scientific knowledge is necessary for understanding the issues and complexities around healthy and sustainable food. But science alone cannot tell us how to act or what a good and ethical food system is. Making decisions about the food system involves value judgements about what is important and these depend on people’s preferences and visions for the future.

Therefore, we aim to engage with a wide range of stakeholders and perspectives to bring out value-based reflections and to clarify the arguments, assumptions and evidence around issues of concern. 

Table is rooted in academia. We are a collaboration between the University of Oxford, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR). Table is the successor to the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Oxford, which for 15 years conducted, synthesised, and communicated research on food sustainability. You can find previous FCRN explainers and FCRN reports on our website.

 

Podcasts

Read more about the podcast and listen to the Trailer episode with Tara GarnettEpisode 1 with Ken Giller on the Food Security Conundrum, and Episode 2: with Rob Bailey on Global Food Trade.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting food and nutrition security through economic and social systems shocks, food system disruptions and gaps in coverage of essential health and nutrition services. Food systems in low- and middle-income countries must adapt and strengthen food and nutrition security in the wake of COVID-19.

Food insecurity, deteriorations in diet quality, micronutrient deficiencies and other forms of malnutrition stem from fundamental, complex and dynamic changes in our food system9. Despite varying burdens and differential mitigation responses to SARS-CoV-2 across the globe, the impacts on national, regional and local food systems have consistently resulted in job losses, income shortfalls and food shortages.

To read the article, click here: Food systems, diets and nutrition in the wake of COVID-19

 

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With a high rate of COVID-19 patients in the overweight/obese category as well as those with Type-2 Diabetes, this can present a significant challenge when estimating and fulfilling these individualised nutritional requirements. Looking specifically at obese patients, there has historically been an attitude of underfeeding in intensive care, but this cohort is equally at risk of becoming malnourished (rapid, significant and unplanned weight loss) when nutritional requirements are not met for prolonged periods, and this can be a predictor of poorer clinical course and outcomes (1).

This article is not intended to replace clinical guidelines but is designed to highlight some key aspects relevant to nutritional assessment in ICU when treating patients with COVID-19. Read the full article here.

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The United Kingdom is soon coming up to a month in lock-down to try and slow the rate of spread of COVID-19. Whilst majority of the public adapt to the enforced social distancing and isolation measures, designated key workers continue working in uncharted environments, often being required to work longer hours and busier shifts. Key workers include those employed in educational services, food and essential goods production, distribution and sales, logistics, utilities, communications, provision of infrastructure and financial services, public safety and security staff, local and national government as well as those facing COVID-19 head on in health and social care services.

Whilst it is vital at home people utilise this opportunity to keep themselves physically and mentally healthy given the imminent risk of infection, it is pertinent to support our key workers in staying healthy during this time.

This short article includes tips to keep Key Workers in as best a health state as possible.

 
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Evidence is emerging that vitamin D – and possibly vitamins K and A – might help combat COVID-19. A new study from the University of Bristol published in the journal of the German Chemical Society Angewandte Chemie has shown how they – and other antiviral drugs – might work. The research indicates that these dietary supplements and compounds could bind to the viral spike protein and so might reduce SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. In contrast, cholesterol may increase infectivity, which could explain why having high cholesterol is considered a risk factor for serious disease.

 

To read the article, click here: How vitamins, steroids and potential antivirals might affect SARS-CoV-2

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Context

In England, the majority of adults, and more than a quarter of children aged 2 to 15 years live with obesity or excess weight. From 1992 to 2020, even though the government published 14 obesity strategies in England, the prevalence of obesity has not been reduced. We aimed to determine whether such government strategies and policies have been fit for purpose regarding their strategic focus, nature, basis in theory and evidence, and implementation viability.

Method

We undertook a mixed‐methods study, involving a document review and analysis of government strategies either wholly or partially dedicated to tackling obesity in England. We developed a theory‐based analytical framework, using content analysis and applied thematic analysis (ATA) to code all policies. Our interpretation drew on quantitative findings and thematic analysis.

Findings

We identified and analyzed 14 government strategies published from 1992 to 2020 containing 689 wide‐ranging policies. Policies were largely proposed in a way that would be unlikely to lead to implementation; the majority were not interventionist and made high demands on individual agency, meaning that they relied on individuals to make behavior changes rather than shaping external influences, and are thus less likely to be effective or to reduce health inequalities.

Conclusions

The government obesity strategies’ failure to reduce the prevalence of obesity in England for almost 30 years may be due to weaknesses in the policies’ design, leading to a lack of effectiveness, but they may also be due to failures of implementation and evaluation. These failures appear to have led to insufficient or no policy learning and governments proposing similar or identical policies repeatedly over many years. Governments should learn from their earlier policy failures. They should prioritize policies that make minimal demands on individuals and have the potential for population‐wide reach so as to maximize their potential for equitable impacts. Policies should be proposed in ways that readily lead to implementation and evaluation.

Download open access article here.

 
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People on a low-fat, plant-based diet ate fewer daily calories but had higher insulin and blood glucose levels, compared to when they ate a low-carbohydrate, animal-based diet, according to a small but highly controlled study at the National Institutes of Health. Led by researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the study compared the effects of the two diets on calorie intake, hormone levels, body weight, and more.

“To help us achieve good nutrition, rigorous science is critical − and of particular importance now, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we aim to identify strategies to help us stay healthy,” said NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, M.D. “This study brings us closer to answering long-sought questions about how what we eat affects our health.”

To read more, click here NIH study compares low-fat, plant-based diet to low-carb, animal-based diet

 

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A study of the grain trade during 2020 indicates that policies to protect supply chains must be enacted to avoid supply chain shocks such as COVID-19 and locust swarms exacerbating food insecurity in global regions that rely on food imports.

Food insecurity is complex — there is no silver bullet of policy or market intervention that can lead to a situation where all people at all times will have continuous access to healthy, affordable diets. And though global food systems are interdependent and also complex, food insecurity in many regions has been precipitated by pestilence, environmental disaster and conflict. Pestilence is a fatal epidemic or pandemic disease affecting humans, crops or livestock that impacts food supply and production; insect and rodent plagues remain a major threat to human food security1,2,3,4,5. Recently, swarms of locusts larger than any recorded in recent decades detrimentally affected more than 330,000 hectares of land from Ethiopia to India6, whilst the COVID-19 pandemic — and the controls implemented to curb infection rates — affected food production and supply3.

In times of crisis, the demand for staple foods increases in ways that can destabilize local and global supply chains and cause social unrest3,7. In this issue of Nature Food, Falkendal et al.8 quantify wheat, rice and maize supply chain disruption from 2020 locust swarms and COVID-19-related effects on food prices, stock levels, international trade and export restrictions. The study considers two dimensions of food security, first outlined nearly a quarter of a century ago at the World Food Summit in 1996, namely: physical availability of food (production output, stock levels and trade dynamics) and economic and physical access to food (the ability to buy food, for example, ratio of prices to income, and accessible marketing channels). The authors frame their argument in terms of stability and the socio-economic shocks (political instability, unemployment and drastic loss of income) that the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it that will lead to greater food insecurity in the short and medium term.

In their model, Falkendal and colleagues find that export restrictions and precautionary purchasing in response to COVID-19 could destabilize global grain trade, leading to many low- and middle-income countries that rely on grain imports potentially experiencing further food insecurity that exacerbates the effects felt from shocks such as COVID-19 and locust swarms. Thus, protectionist measures initiated by governments, institutions or market actors to secure national food security will affect those who are food vulnerable, and consumer support policy measures should be introduced to mitigate the risk of food insecurity. The authors call for incremental rather than blunt, binary ‘borders open or borders closed’ food security policies, and a need for mutually agreed solutions to address food insecurity — rather than unilateral national decision-making based primarily on self-interest. Whether altruist or self-serving food security policies are implemented by governments and market actors will be demonstrated in practice over the coming months.

The impact of economic stabilization policies following the 2007 economic crash highlights how individuals and households can transition instantly from a higher standard of living into a situation where they must survive with less, raising the question as to what is the minimum standard for an acceptable life9. In the UK, the last time minimum standards with regard to food for an acceptable life were determined was the food rationing legislation on 15 September 194110 — the Hansard report makes challenging reading when comparing the proposed austere diet to our typical food consumption in the UK. The UN Sustainable Development Goals also determine the dynamics of an acceptable life, and multi-level consensus building and action is essential to safeguard food supply – especially if, as a global community, we seek to deliver the two targets of “no poverty and zero hunger”. Despite having policy and technological tools to reduce the impact of many human, zoonotic and plant diseases, collective strategic risk at local, regional and global levels cannot be ignored. Falkendal and colleagues have shown that a proactive strategy and a co-ordinated collective response with shared goals and co-operative actions is necessary as the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and natural events such as locust swarms arise in order to ensure that the grain trade remains stable, equitable and accessible to all.

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A new WHO Action framework for developing and implementing public food procurement and service policies for a healthy diet aims to increase the availability of healthy food through setting nutrition criteria for food served and sold in public settings. The action framework also aims to reduce preventable diseases and deaths from high consumption of sodium and salt, sugars and fats, particularly trans fats, and inadequate consumption of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit.

To read the article, click here.

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An England-wide survey of over 5,000 adults found that 80% of people aged over 18 have made the decision to change their lifestyle in 2021.

The survey showed 8 in 10 adults aged over 18 have decided to modify their lifestyle in 2021, with 7 in 10 adults saying that they are motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

To read the post : Seven in 10 adults are motivated to get healthier in 2021 due to COVID-19

 

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Based on analyses of a nation-wide EHR database in the US, the researchers show that patients with CLD, especially those who had recent medical encounter for CLD, were at significantly increased risk for COVID-19 acquisition compared with patients without CLD. African Americans with CLD were twice more likely to get COVID-19 than Caucasians with CLD. COVID-19 patients with CLD had higher rates of hospitalization and death than COVID-19 negative patients with CLD and COVID-19 patients without CLD.

To read the paper, please follow this link: COVID-19 risk, disparities and outcomes in patients with chronic liver disease in the United States

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