COVID-19 & Obesity News Digest: 3 -14th May
We are compiling stories from credible sources representing all regions of the world, including academic articles, position statements and mainstream news, amongst others.
Europe and Central Asia: Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020 - Affordable Healthy Diets to Promote Health and Address all Forms of Malnutrition – Relief Web
According to the Europe and Central Asia Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is posing serious threats to food security and nutrition, especially for low-income and vulnerable populations in the region. The annual report, produced jointly by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO), The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), provides a comprehensive analysis of the topic, including all forms of malnutrition, current dietary patterns, and the costs of diets for individuals, society, and the planet. The report highlights the prevalence of overweight and obesity as a major problem, even among children, with alarmingly high rates in most countries of the region. WHO data shows that unhealthy diets account for an estimated 86 percent of deaths and 77 percent of the disease burden in the region.
Lockdown has heavy consequences for South Africans – survey -The Rep South Africa
A new survey has revealed that South Africans have gained weight during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey of 2,000 South Africans was commissioned by the country’s largest provider of cardiovascular medicine, the findings highlight the negative impact the pandemic has had on eating habits and exercise levels. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents said that lockdown regulations had impacted their eating and exercise habits for the worse, and thirty-four percent said their diet consists mainly of takeout and readymade meals, while a further 30 percent stated that they now only eat what they can afford. Participants were also asked to calculate their BMI 69 percent of respondents reported BMI levels in the overweight and obese range. South Africa’s obesity associated costs are estimated to be R53.9bn per annum.
Obesity Deadlier in Men with COVID-19 Than Women – Web MD
Men with obesity are more likely to have severe cases of COVID-19 than women, with increased rates of death, according to a new study. The research published in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, examined 3,530 (male and female) patients admitted to hospital between March and May 2020 with COVID-19. The odds for in-hospital death were higher for men of a given BMI than women even after adjusting for other factors, including but not limited to age, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease. The researchers have suggested that differences in fat distribution between men and women may help explain the disproportionate impact of severe obesity in men compared to women. Further studies are needed to confirm the findings.
COVID-19: Overweight and obese more likely to test positive for the virus - Sky News
People with a higher body mass index (BMI) are more likely to test positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. Research by Chaim Sheba Medical Centre in Israel found that people who are overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are 22 percent more likely to contract the virus. The figure for people with obesity (a BMI between 30 and 34.9) rises to 27 percent. The study of over 26,000 people was conducted last year between 16 March and 31 December, in total 1,178 positive COVID-19 tests were recorded. Researchers said that even after other factors such as age, sex and other medical conditions were considered, the relationship between BMI and the probability of a person testing positive remained significant.
Girls with obesity at higher risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood: Study - India Times
A new study conducted in Brazil has found that girls are more likely than boys to develop metabolic alterations associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure and excessive blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. The study of 92 adolescents was published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition. The findings showed that girls with obesity displayed a pattern of lipid profile not seen in girls without obesity. In contrast the lipid profile of the boys with obesity displayed no significant differences from that of normal-weight boys. During the study researchers took the subjects' blood pressure and collected blood samples to measure fasting serum concentration of total cholesterol (TC), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL), and triglycerides (TG). The researchers also looked for binge eating patterns and addiction to high-sugar & high-fat foods using special-purpose questionnaires. The study’s author suggests that the findings show that girls and boys should not be treated alike even if they have the same weight and age because their bodies respond to differently to treatment.
Huge healthcare burden of post-COVID-19 symptoms likely, suggests new study – News Medical Life Sciences
A new study has examined how well patients recover after the virus has been cleared from their systems. The study analysed 301 participants, from May 2020 to the end of January 2021. About half had moderate COVID-19, a third had a mild illness, while about one in five had severe/critical disease, respectively. As expected, mildly ill patients recovered the fastest, with a median of 57 days to full recovery. At three months, one or more symptom was reported to be consistent by a third of these patients, compared to double this figure with moderate illness, and over 80% of patients with severe/critical disease. The greatest risk for delayed recovery was a high body mass index. The time to complete recovery was increased by half in patients with obesity and a quarter in patients with overweight, compared to those with normal weight.
Obesity, COVID-19, and the Asia-Pacific – The Development Policy Blog
In this opinion piece, Ian Anderson from the Policy Development Centre highlights the prevalence of obesity in the Pacific region. The author cites the findings of the World Bank Group’s report - Obesity: Health and economic consequences of an impending global challenge that states that over 70% of adults with overweight and obesity live in low or middle-income countries. The author also focuses on the findings of the World Obesity Federation’s March 2021 World Atlas report, which shows the links between obesity and COVID-19. The Atlas shows that obesity is a problem that is particularly severe in the Pacific region. Pacific Island countries have the four highest rates of adult obesity in the world. Additionally, the Pacific region is also faced with the double burden of malnutrition coexisting with obesity. The World Bank Group’s report estimates that only eight countries in the world have a “very high” double burden, but two of them – Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Solomon Islands – are in the Pacific, while another four countries in the Asia-Pacific also have a “high” level of double burden. The author suggests that post COVID-19, changes must be made to develop sustainable health for all.
CARICOM needs healthy food policies – Barbados Today
In this opinion piece, Maisha Hutton the Executive Director of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition urges CARICOM members states to vote for the adoption of the Final Draft CARICOM Regional Standard for Specification for labelling of pre-packaged foods. The author asserts that the global obesity and diet-related epidemic is just one of many that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the last few decades, significant increases in overweight, obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the Caribbean have been fuelled by a rapid growth in the consumption of sugary drinks and ultra-processed products (UPP), which are defined as industrially formulated mixtures that are high in added sugar, salt and fat that have little to no nutritional value. Currently, 1 in 3 Caribbean children are now living with overweight or obesity. The author calls on governments to act now to pass proven policies which can halt the increasing consumption of unhealthy food.
Fat shaming, BMI, and alienation: COVID-19 brought new stigma to large-sized people - The LA Times
In this article, the writer explores how the pandemic has highlighted the issue of weight stigma in society. Obesity has been linked with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 complications. Consequently, people with a high BMI are receiving prioritisation for the COVID-19 vaccine in some states. Yet research shows that weight bias can prevent people from seeking care and potentially early vaccination. At the same time, the pandemic has emphasised the clash between the medical establishment and the ‘health at every size movement’. Experts such as Dr Fatima Cody Stanford urge the movement to embrace the science and learn about the pathophysiology of obesity as a disease. In contrast advocates of the movement argue that weight bias is present in medical studies and therefore dispute research and studies linked to BMI.