COVID News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - February | World Obesity Federation

COVID News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - February

NewsCOVID News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - February

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

If you have signed up to our newsletter, we will be sending this digest to your inbox during the current pandemic. If you have any stories from your country or discipline, please send through to us at

Check to see if your BMI is in the 'obese' range, because you may be able to get an early COVID-19 vaccine – The Insider

People living with obesity are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in several states in the USA, but many people do not know their BMI and may not realise they are eligible for early vaccination. Obesity is a qualifying condition for vaccine eligibility in Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wyoming. Some states have taken a different approach. In Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota people living with obesity must also have another underlying condition such as diabetes to qualify for vaccination.

Reduce obesity to prevent half of new Type 2 diabetes cases in U.S.- Northwestern Now

A new study by academics from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine reveals that up to half of new type 2 diabetes cases in the United States could be prevented by reducing the prevalence of obesity. The study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association is the first to calculate trends in the percentage of new cases of diabetes due to obesity over time. The study also highlights race and sex disparities, there is a higher prevalence of obesity among non-Hispanic Black adults and Mexican American adults compared to non-Hispanic white adults. The authors of the report stress that prevention is even more urgent because the obesity epidemic has collided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals with obesity have more severe COVID-19 infections and could experience more adverse health consequences in the coming years as a result.

Damage to the heart found in more than half of COVID-19 patients discharged from hospital – Science Daily

A new study published in the European Heart Journal shows that around 50% of patients who have been hospitalised with severe COVID-19 show raised levels of troponin and damage to their hearts. Troponin is protein released into the blood when the heart muscle is injured. Raised levels can occur when an artery becomes blocked or there is inflammation of the heart. The study of 148 patients from six acute hospitals in London is the largest study to investigate convalescing COVID-19 patients who had raised troponin levels. Further investigation will need to be undertaken to determine whether patients are at risk of heart failure in the future.

Telehealth and patient management recommendations lead 2021 Obesity Algorithm updates – Medical Economics

The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) has issued major updates to its Adult Obesity Algorithm to help health care professionals support patients living with obesity. The 2021 Adult Obesity Algorithm includes revised classifications of body fat percentage, and guidance regarding body composition and visceral fat metrics. The pandemic has disrupted continuity of care for patients at a time when ‘stay at home’ messages may have also caused adverse bodyweight effects. Healthcare professionals require ongoing educational support, and guidance in managing patients living with obesity.


Hormones and COVID-19: An alarming link 

Research and policy changes are urgently required to understand more about the connection between endocrine conditions and viruses such as COVID-19. The endocrine system is the key regulator of body weight, energy expenditure and food intake. If the system is imbalanced or malfunctioning this can lead to chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and endocrine cancers such as thyroid cancer. Patients suffering from endocrine-related conditions are at an increased risk of COVID-19 infection and once infected face more severe outcomes. Scientists have found statistically significant endocrine pathways that may be adversely affected by endocrine – disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that are also linked to the severity of COVID-19. A legislative framework on EDCs is vital in addition to research funding to understand the long-term health consequences of COVID-19 on endocrine and metabolic diseases.


News Digest: 1 – 12th February 2021

COVID-19 cases down in Ludhiana, but fatality rate above state average: The Times of India

In Ludhiana city, in the north Indian state of Punjab, health authorities are concerned by high COVID-19 fatality rates. Health experts have attributed Ludhiana’s higher than state average Case Fatality Rate (CFR) to the high levels of obesity. Health officials also suggest that late testing is a contributing factor. Ludhiana also has a large population of people living in slum housing.

Cities investing in healthy and sustainable food environments for all children: Cities Today.

Unicef’s new roadmap for work on urban nutrition, projects that 70 percent of the world’s children will live in cities by 2050. The situation is most urgent for low-and middle-income countries where approximately two-thirds of the urban population growth over the next decades will happen. The article emphasises the need for cities to be at the forefront of action to create healthier, more sustainable food environments in the future. It also highlights innovations  such as Amsterdam Healthy Weight Approach (AHWA) that was developed to address high levels of obesity amongst young people.

New diabetes cases linked to COVID-19: Washington Post

New research shows that as many as 14 percent of people hospitalized with severe COVID-19 developed diabetes, according to a global analysis published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism. Many of those patients had no prior history of diabetes. Some who developed elevated blood sugar while they had COVID-19, returned to normal by the time they left the hospital while others went home with a diagnosis of diabetes. In some instances, diabetes emerged months after the body had cleared the virus. Scientists do not know whether COVID-19 might hasten already developing problems or cause them — or both.

Obesity to HIV: these risk groups will get priority for COVID-19 vaccines: Brussels Times.

The Flemish Health Minister has announced that people living with obesity will be one of the priority groups to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when the roll-out begins in March. Priority groups will be identified using health insurance data and information from General Practitioners.

Children piling on the pounds since pandemic: Jamaica Observer.

Paediatricians in Jamaica are observing an increase in children with obesity and complications related to obesity since the onset of the pandemic. Anecdotal reports indicate an increase in the number of children developing type ll diabetes and musculoskeletal complications. Several causes are suggested including reduced physical play and unemployment preventing parents from offering children nutritionally balanced meals.

Focus on food security - Bangkok Post.

Research from United Nations agencies shows that as many as 1.9 billion people in Asia and the Pacific are unable to afford a healthy diet and the situation has only been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.  The report - "Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2020: Maternal and Child Diets at the Heart of Improving Nutrition", details the negative consequences for children. Across the region millions of children are stunted and displaying signs of wasting, while at the same time, levels of obesity have rapidly increased. In Southeast Asia and the Pacific, 14.5 million children under five are estimated to be overweight or obese.

Food systems need to change to promote healthy choices and combat obesity – The Conversation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on people with obesity and diabetes   and underlined the importance of the food environment and healthy food intake. In Africa, nearly 70% of diabetes cases are undiagnosed. Ultra-processed foods and sugary drinks are contributing to the rising rates of obesity. New policies are needed to reverse this trend. Tax and labelling interventions can play a role but will not be sufficient. To make healthy food accessible to poor people subsidies to lower the price of healthy foods are required.

Obesity: Appetite drug could mark 'new era' in tackling condition - The BBC

A drug that suppresses appetite has led to some people losing more than a fifth of their body weight, a major international trial shows. The new drug – semaglutide works by hijacking the body's appetite levels and mimicking a hormone - called GLP1 - that is released after eating a filling meal. The study, conducted on almost 2,000 people, showed an average 15kg weight loss during the 15-month trial. Semaglutide is being submitted to drugs regulators so cannot be routinely prescribed yet, but experts suggest that the drug will initially be used by specialist weight loss clinics rather than being widely available.

Obesity, age, and COVID-19 infection can make someone a super-spreader of SARS-CoV-2 News Medical & Life Sciences

Research from Tulane University, Harvard University, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital has revealed that obesity, age, and COVID-19 infection correlate with a propensity to breathe out more respiratory droplets -- key spreaders of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers analysed data from an observational study of 194 healthy people and an experimental study of nonhuman primates with COVID-19. The findings were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.