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Connecting poor nutrition and low recovery capital

Posted byWritten by David

Issue #2 — The Index

Last week, I read a story about a company in Sweden that is placing unstaffed, mini supermarkets in rural communities around the country. These supermarkets are essentially the size of mobile home or a couple shipping containers. They include the basics but also high-quality produce, organics, and non-processed foods. The shops are appearing in communities where the only grocery or convenience stores have closed because of falling profits and residents leaving for bigger cities.

READ: Shops return to rural Sweden but are now staff-free – BBC

What makes these shops work in the rural communities is that they are unstaffed. Shoppers use a mobile app to scan and pay for what they take from the shop. Suppliers stock the shops, which is choreographed by the data collected and analyzed.


There is overwhelming evidence that good nutrition protects against all sorts of physical and mental illnesses. For individuals with addiction, most suffer from nutrient deficiencies. The deficiencies function in a negative feedback loop, exacerbating anxiety and depression (pain to be numbed by alcohol and drugs) and hindering the body’s natural desire to not be addicted. The research further finds that food lacking nutrition and sweets reduce cognitive capabilities associated with survival.

STUDY: The importance of nutrition in aiding recovery from substance use disorders: A review – PubMed

Ultimately, poor nutrition severely impacts all individual’s capacity to resist the progression of addiction or overcome addiction and sustain recovery.

For many individuals in early recovery, access to nutritious food and the ability to pay for it is severely challenged. We need good food to heal our brain. Our brain drives the decisions we make. When we’re in early recovery, we have to make enormously critical decisions – life and death decisions. Some decisions result in immediate response; others are the beginning of a long chain of decisions with downstream payback.

Small towns and large cities alike are littered with fast food shops and convenience stores. Much of the food lacks nutritional value. And many of it is loaded with sugar and other chemicals that our brain easily craves. Also, this so-called food is incredibly cheap and plentiful. When we have little money, little time, and raging challenges in other areas of our lives, nutritious food moves to the back-burner (shall we say).

Nutrition is a key indicator of recovery capital. The Recovery Capital Index has three items on nutrition. Reviewing a random sampling of 369 responses from OCT 2019 to FEB 2020, response rates to one of the items is very telling.

Q12: My food intake is nutritionally balanced.

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What the chart above shows is the average recovery capital score for each response group. Respondents who stated they had a balanced nutritional intake had higher overall recovery capital scores. Precisely what we should see.

The Recovery Capital Index is scored from 1-100.

But if we look at the same item in context of all three nutrition items that make up the nutrition indicator …

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The average nutrition score is 45.95 and nearly one third believe they do not have a balanced nutritional intake. That increases to 64% if we include the group who are uncertain.

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In terms of access to healthy food, 41% believe they have such access, 23% are uncertain, and 35% say they do not have access to healthy food.

Now you can likely see why the unstaffed, tech-enabled, mini Swedish grocery shops have my full attention.

It’s no secret that America has many food deserts. In fact, according to the USDA, 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts.

VIEW: Food Deserts in America (Infographic) – Tulane University

Addiction will persist, as will the recurrence of symptoms, if those affected are not eating more nutritious meals. Eating healthy food is not a panacea, but it is one critical element of preventing addiction and sustaining recovery. We need innovative solutions like in Sweden to especially increase access to healthy food in rural areas where many things can be a little harder.


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We are excited to announce a partnership with NuLife Virtual to enhance care provider’s ability to connect clients to high-quality care, maintain long-term continuous support, and measure change.

NuLife Virtual is an an emerging leader in technology-assisted, addiction and mental health recovery management for enterprise providers and their clients. This collaboration will integrate the Recovery Capital Index® (RCI) from Commonly Well.

Our goal is to establish the RCI as a standard recovery measure for the industry. Working with partners like NuLife, we can expand the reach of the RCI while being a meaningful piece that transforms millions of lives.

Commonly Well uses a text messaging platform to design custom automated and
personalized engagement strategies for data capture, performance monitoring, and
outcomes measurement.

Got questions or want to learn more about our Recovery Intelligence Model?

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