COVID-19 & Obesity News Digest : 7 June - 2 July
We are compiling stories from credible sources representing all regions of the world, including academic articles, position statements and mainstream news, amongst others.
Mexico's obesity epidemic – Thomson Reuters
New research from Imperial College London has revealed that the BMI of Mexican boys and girls has risen at one of the steepest rates globally, over the past 35 years. Researchers compared data from 200 countries. In 1985, Mexican girls aged 19 had a mean BMI of 20.7 and ranked 155th among their peers, but by 2019, it had risen to 24.2 and ranked 19th. Obesity is now widespread among both Mexican children & adults and is continuing to worsen. According to a paper published in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, obesity emerged as a problem in Mexico when a trade deal with the United States and Canada in 1994 made cheap, unhealthy food, easily available, and replaced the traditional diet.
Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020 – Relief Web
A new report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN has revealed that Africa is not on track to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 targets to end hunger and ensure access by all people to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round and to end all forms of malnutrition. In addition to hunger, across all countries in Africa, millions of people suffer from widespread micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity are emerging as significant health concerns in many countries. The report shows that the food systems in Africa do not provide nutritious food that is affordable for most people, and this is reflected in the high burden of diseases associated with maternal and child malnutrition, high body-mass and micronutrient deficiencies.
Scientists find ‘game-changing’ rare gene variants that protect against obesity after huge DNA study – The Independent
Researchers from the Regeneron Genetics Centre have identified a group of rare gene variants that help to protect people against obesity. The researchers analysed genetic data from more than 640,000 people from Mexico, the US and the UK to find new insights into the genetic basis of obesity. The study, published in the journal Science, found that people with rare genetic mutations in the GPR75 gene had a 54 percent reduced risk of obesity and on average tended to weigh about 12 pounds less than those without them.
People with obesity 'three times more likely' to end up in hospital because of COVID-19, says UAE health official – The National News
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), The Ministry of Health and Prevention has launched an awareness programme to highlight the links between obesity and more severe cases of the virus. In February, researchers from the Arabian Wellness and Lifestyle Management centre at RAK Hospital found that people who are overweight were 62 percent more likely to develop complications while patients with a diet heavy in fast food were 51 percent more at risk. The research team studied more than 3,200 people in the UAE to understand factors that put people at increased risk from COVID-19. Obesity has been a long-standing issue in the UAE, the country was recently ranked 26th on the Global Obesity Observatory’s list of countries with high levels of obesity. Obesity experts have suggested that the population needs to make changes to address rising obesity levels. Currently, bariatric surgery is readily used to treat obesity but is not successful long-term because patients often fail to make the appropriate lifestyle changes.
Ultra-processed foods: Urgent action needed to reduce harm- Hippocratic Post.
British children are consuming ‘exceptionally high’ proportions of ultra-processed foods, increasing their risk of obesity, and damaging their long-term health according to new research from Imperial. The Imperial led study analysed data from thousands of children in the UK over several years to examine the health impact of consuming ultra-processed foods (UPFs). Researchers found that not only do UPFs make up a high proportion of children’s diets (more than 40% of intake in grams and more than 60% of calories on average), but also the higher the proportion of UPFs children consume, the greater their risk of becoming overweight or obese. The study was published in the journal JAMA Paediatrics, and the authors say it provides important evidence of the potential damage of consuming highly processed foods.
Teens With Obesity Risk Heart Attack, Diabetes as Adults – Web Md
Teenagers with obesity are more likely than their peers without obesity to have a heart attack, type 2 diabetes, or (self-reported) poor health when they are in their 30s and 40s according to a new study. The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology examined how obesity affects health at ages 11 - 18 and at ages 33 - 43. The study also found that teens with obesity were more likely than other teens to still have obesity 24 years later, as well as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart failure, cancer, asthma and sleep apnoea. The author of the study believes that the findings show that adolescence is an important period to prevent future diabetes and heart attacks.
Children of mums with obesity at higher risk of fatty liver disease – The Guardian
Children of mothers with obesity have a greater risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in their 20s according to new research findings presented at the International Liver Congress 2021. Researchers looked at liver scans from 2,961 participants born in England and enrolled in a longitudinal study called the Children of the 90s. For most participants, information was also available on the body mass index (BMI) of their parents. After considering factors such as maternal age, smoking in pregnancy and social class, the team found that obesity in mothers before pregnancy was associated with just over twice the risk of their children going on to have NAFLD at the age of 24 compared to the children of mothers without obesity. NAFLD can be caused by obesity and can lead to serious health problems such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. High levels of fat in the liver are also associated with a greater risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Obesity Increases 'Long-Haul' COVID Risks - MedicineNet
A new study has revealed that people living with obesity are more likely to have long-lasting health issues after surviving COVID-19. Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic collected data on more than 2,800 patients treated for COVID-19 at the Cleveland Clinic between March and July 2020. Patients were then monitored until late January of this year. During follow-up, 44 percent of patients had to be hospitalised and 1% died. Compared with other patients, the risk of hospitalisation was 28 percent to 30 percent higher in patients with moderate and severe obesity. People with obesity also had a higher need (25 -39 percent), for tests for other medical problems. The authors of the study claim that the findings suggest that people with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or more are at the greatest risk of long-haul COVID, compared to those with a normal BMI. Based on the results, experts suggest long-term and rigorous follow-ups of patients with obesity who contracted COVID-19.
Food security isn’t enough. Anti-hunger experts say the focus should be on nutrition security- Washington Post
In this opinion piece from Cara Rosenbloom (president of Words to Eat), the author suggests that it is important for the debate to move beyond ‘food security’ (a term used to describe consistent access to food), and the focus should move to ‘nutrition security’. The distinction is an important one because ‘nutrition security’ emphasises access and availability of healthy foods that prevent and treat disease, not just foods that provide calories. Too often food programmes focus on providing the appropriate amount of food or calories, and the nutritional element is forgotten. Resulting, for example, with school breakfasts that are calorie sufficient but inadequate in terms of nutrition. Experts in the US suggest that nutrition is the most powerful determinant of health for everyone and estimate that 45 percent of deaths from heart disease, stroke or diabetes are linked to poor diet. The author suggests that food programmes alone cannot tackle nutrition security, instead societal inequalities must be addressed alongside appropriate government policies.
Not Just Junk: Why We Need To Re-Think Food Processing - Forbes
In this opinion piece the author, Errol Schweizer asserts that a nuanced approach needs to be adopted in the discussions about ultra-processed foods. The author asserts that while the negative impact of ultra-processed food is undisputed it is important that the topic is not oversimplified. Junk food should not be conflated with all processed foods. The cooking of ‘whole foods’ is to be encouraged but advocates must consider that it will not necessarily be easily achieved by all because many communities need time, equipment and knowledge to turn raw ingredients into meals. Many good food products that are available are ‘processed’. The author also emphasises the idea that food processing does not need to be monopolised by the private sector, instead public sector food processing systems can be developed that prioritise healthy eating, sustainability and local economies.