COVID News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19: 22 March - 2 April

NewsCOVID News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19: 22 March - 2 April

We are compiling stories from credible sources representing all regions of the world, including academic articles, position statements and mainstream news, amongst others. 

Confinement generated weight gain, in 33% of the child population of Atizapán - El Heraldo de Mexico.In Atizapán in Mexico,33% of patients who attended the Children’s Clinic for Attention, Treatment and Combat of Overweight, Obesity and Eating Disorders, registered an increase in weight. More than a third of the 2,000 children and adolescents who attended the clinic in 2020, who had previously maintained a normal weight became overweight, while those who were overweight developed obesity. Doctors at the clinic suggest that anxiety, boredom, and a sedentary lifestyle because of the confinement led to an increase in the consumption of hyper calorific foods.


Pandemic Accentuates Need for Better Caribbean Food – St Kitts & Nevis Observer

A recent survey conducted by the Caribbean Research & Policy Institute and UNICEF found that Jamaican households are experiencing significant food shortages. Five hundred Jamaican households took part in the survey and 44% reported that they were experiencing food shortages, while 78% said their savings could last them four weeks or less. Caribbean health experts fear that food shortages will lead to malnutrition and obesity, as families are forced to consume lower-cost but unhealthy foods. Employment in the Caribbean has been heavily impacted by the downturn in tourism due to COVID-19, in Jamaica alone 50,000 jobs have been lost in the tourism sector.


COVID-19 and cancer: 1 year on - The Lancet

The pandemic has led to a significant number of missed diagnoses and delayed treatments due to the pressure on health care systems and the reluctance of patients to seek medical care. A study in the UK showed that during the first wave of the pandemic (March-August 2020), 45% of those with cancer symptoms did not contact their doctor. Similarly in Australia, another study has revealed that around 25000 cancer diagnoses were missed during the first six months of the pandemic. The provision of cancer treatments has also been heavily impacted, the World Health Organisation has reported that one in three European countries had partially or completely interrupted cancer care services early in the pandemic. It is suggested that lockdown-associated lifestyle habits such as unhealthy diets and reduced physical activity could cause a further increase in the prevalence of obesity-related cancers in the years ahead.


'Striking’ Increase in Childhood Obesity During Pandemic - WebMD

Obesity rates among children jumped substantially in the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online in Pediatrics. Experts worry that excess weight will be a continuing problem for these children. The study looked at a large pediatric primary care network and found the number of patients with obesity increased from 13.7% to 15.4%. The researchers compared the average obesity rate from June to December 2020 with the rate from June to December 2019 among patients in the network. The researchers examined body mass index (BMI) at all visits for patients aged 2 to 17 years for whom height and weight were documented. The analysis included approximately 169,000 visits in 2019 and about 145,000 in 2020. Increases in obesity rates were more pronounced among patients age 5 to 9 and among patients who were Hispanic/Latino, non-Hispanic Black, publicly insured, or from lower-income neighborhoods.


How Much Weight Did We Gain During Lockdowns? - The New York Times

A new study approved by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) institutional review board reveals that adults under shelter-in-place orders gained more than half a pound every ten days. The new study analysed data obtained from 269 participants who were involved in an ongoing cardiology study, the Health eHeart Study. Participants reported weight measurements from Bluetooth-connected smart scales and weighed themselves regularly. The researchers gathered 7,444 weight measurements over a four-month period, an average of 28 weight measurements from each participant. The study participants were from 37 states. Researchers analysed weight measurements taken between Feb. 1, 2020, and June 1, 2020, in order to consider weight changes both before and after shelter-in-place orders were issued for each state. The results cannot be generalised because the participants were not nationally representative.


High Liver Fat (Hepatic Steatosis) Linked to Increased Risk of Hospitalization in COVID-19 Patients with Obesity - Healthcare Business News   

The results of an imaging study, that explored whether having excess liver fat could influence severity of COVID-19 in obese individuals, showed that individuals with both obesity as well as fatty liver were five times more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19. Notably, individuals with obesity and normal liver fat were not at increased risk of being hospitalised. The study, "Hepatic Steatosis Rather Than Underlying Obesity Increases Risk of Infection and Hospitalization for COVID-19," Roca-Fernandez et al, 2021 was published in Frontiers in Medicine (Gastroenterology). The MRI data was acquired before the COVID-19 pandemic and included 4,458 people who had later been tested for COVID-19.


Office for Health Promotion to be set up to tackle obesity and poor mental health - The Independent

In the UK, a new Office for Health Promotion will be formed to address obesity and poor mental health. The new organisation will be modelled on schemes such as Singapore’s health promotion board and will be tasked with tackling the top preventable risk factors causing death and ill health in England. The new office for Health Promotion will be funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). The DHSC has stated that health outcomes are mostly due to wider preventable risk factors, such as diet, smoking and exercise rather than healthcare. Poor health among the working-age population in the UK costs the economy £100 billion per year.


Obesity and ethnicity identified as key risk factors for SARS-CoV-2 exposure in UK - News Medical Life Sciences

A study entitled COVIDENCE UK, has revealed that severe COVID-19 is more likely for male patients, of Black or Asian ethnicity, living with obesity and underlying diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and hypertension. The study was designed to follow up infected individuals throughout their clinical experience. Data was collected via a baseline questionnaire on COVID-19 like symptoms, test results, and the presence of risk factors. This was followed by monthly questionnaires to detect new cases as well as potential symptoms.


Liver cancer surge as study shows Scotland has highest rates in UK- The Herald

New research published in the Journal of Hepatology shows that Scotland has the UK’s highest rates of liver disease, with deaths and diagnoses doubling since the late 1990s. Experts suggest that the high figures are due to obesity, alcohol consumption and Hepatitis C. The behavioural impact of lockdown on drinking, overeating and lack of exercise, as well as later detection, is expected to worsen this trend. While survival rates have improved, more than half of patients still die within a year of diagnosis. Positive steps to address obesity such as the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing have been made, but new laws to ban the supermarket junk food multi-buy offers are yet to be introduced.


Opinion

Race for Covid vaccines in Africa is hiding the key role of nutritionThe Financial Times (This article is behind the FT paywall and cannot be viewed in full without a subscription)

In this opinion piece, the writer Akinwumi Adesina (President of the African Development Bank) asserts that governments must consider the importance of nutrition as they combat the COVID-19 pandemic. While good nutrition will not prevent a COVID-19 infection, malnutrition can worsen its effects. Obesity due to unhealthy diets is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both risk factors for complications from COVID-19. Levels of malnutrition remain high