Dr Miriam Stoppard: Link to obesity worsened chances of patients with Covid-19 – Miriam Stoppard


There is certainly a link between obesity and Covid-19, but it’s hard to figure out what it is.

We know obese people appear to be severely suffering from Covid with a high risk of dying.

In addition, the more obese people are, the more severely they suffer from Covid. The risk increases by almost half (44%) in overweight people and almost 100% in obese people.

And this finding also applies to other countries outside of the UK, for example in Asia, Europe and the US.

So what’s going on? A BMJ editorial by Monique Tan and colleagues tries to explain.

There are many reasons that could explain the link between Covid and obesity.

It’s possible that the fat cells of obese people are a target and reservoir for the coronavirus before it invades the rest of the body.

The surface of the fat cells makes it easy for Covid to enter our body because it locks up and enters the cells.

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In obese people, lung function is often already compromised due to increased resistance of the airways and greater difficulty in dilating the lungs.

And, third, obesity weakens the immune system, increasing the risk of a cytokine storm with Covid-19, which can often kill people.

During this storm, the immune system goes into overdrive and begins to attack our major organs. And, fourth, it is also difficult to ventilate obese patients.

Obesity is a major cause of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

We are currently going through an obesity pandemic – in 2016, over 1.9 billion adults were overweight or obese globally, affecting 65-70% of adult populations in the UK and US.

In my opinion, there is no doubt that the prevalence of obesity has made the pandemic worse. We now live in an obesogenic environment where it is difficult not to eat too many calories.

Junk food is available everywhere, but it’s not just availability. The food industry must share some of the blame, not only for the spread of obesity, but also for the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The lockdown tipped the scales from healthy, fresh produce towards processed foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.

What I cannot forgive is the way the food industry has used the pandemic as a marketing opportunity. For example, by offering half a million “smiles” in the form of donuts to NHS staff!

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