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Long Covid patients benefit from more personalized treatment, nutrition and exercise (UZ Brussels)

Long Covid patients benefit from more personalized treatment, nutrition and exercise (UZ Brussels)

Personalised treatment of long-term Covid patients in terms of nutrition and exercise not only ensures a faster recovery, but also improves the quality of life. This is evident from a pilot study conducted by UZ Brussels.

In a pilot study, the Clinical Nutrition, Dietetics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Services at UZ Brussels and the Rehabilitation Research Group of the VUB research group tried to determine to what extent a personalized approach to nutrition and exercise could help people with long Covid.

In this study, the researchers recruited 65 participants with long COVID living in Belgium. The average age was 43 years, 65% were women, and their average body mass index was 26 kg/m2. Most participants had mild COVID-19 infection and the average duration of long COVID-19 symptoms, such as fatigue, was 78 weeks.

Participants were divided into an experimental group and a control group. Patients in the control group received physiotherapy for long Covid without personalized dietary guidance. In the experimental group, patients received personalized, individualized treatment – ​​including individualized nutritional advice from a dietitian and a 12-week physiotherapy exercise program.

Participants in the experimental group enjoyed an average of ten consultations with dietitians and nutritionists, as well as fifteen physiotherapy sessions. Researchers examined the patients’ body composition and measured their resting metabolism. Dietary habits, such as the number of calories, the amount of protein, and the quality of their diet, were also part of the analysis. Based on this, the dietitian provided personalized advice to develop a better, healthier diet.

To check the effectiveness of the treatment after 12 weeks, the researchers tested how many times participants in both groups could rise from a sitting position in one minute. “Participants in the intervention group performed four more repetitions, compared with three in the control group,” said Professor David Beckoy, head of the VUB Rehabilitation Research Group. “A change of three more repetitions is considered clinically significant.” Participants in the intervention group were also able to walk an average of 35 metres longer in six minutes.

Professor Elizabeth De Waele is optimistic about future treatments for Long-Covid. “This pilot study is not suitable to prove whether patients actually recover, but the results are promising and reinforce the need to investigate a multidisciplinary approach to treating Long-Covid,” says De Waele. “We’re not there yet, but these new insights are very important.”

An individual approach can also provide relief, according to Stijn Rogman, MD, physiatrist, although its effects are not a panacea and the complaints do not disappear completely. “The measurements at the beginning of the study showed that the general physical condition was poor,” Rogman concludes. “Thanks to this pilot study, we see the positive effects of a multidisciplinary program on increasing flexibility.”

> What affects the risk of long-term COVID-19 infection?

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