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A systematic review of excess weight as a risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease was recently released as a preprint. Researchers at the Noakhali Science and Technology University found that people with overweight have a 1.31 times higher risk of severe infection as compared to those of healthy BMI. The risk is 2.09 - 2.41 times higher for people with obesity, depending on the statistical model used. This finding is particularly important in the resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the world, although the researchers suggest using alternate methods of measuring excess weight instead of BMI.
The anti-obesity drug Saxenda®, previously only approved in adults, has now received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration for use in adolescents. A clinical trial found the medication to be safe and effective when paired with lifestyle counselling. The approval of this medication creates more options for weight management treatments for paediatric obesity, as current options are limited.
Bethel City in Alaska is considering the implantation of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax. While some are hesitant to impose a new tax that will disproportionately affect low-income families during the pandemic, others note the relationship between obesity and severe COVID-19.
Severe COVID-19 infections in children with obesity have motivated the American Association of Pediatrics to release two new sets of guidance- one on obesity prevention and general wellness through nutrition and physical activity, the other on obesity management during the pandemic. “Supporting Healthy Nutrition and Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic” instructs physicians to focus on nutrition, physical activity, and obesity monitoring at wellness visits. For children diagnosed with obesity, “Obesity Management and Treatment During COVID-19” recommends that physicians continue to treat obesity and comorbidities without delay. Doctors should consider sources of family stress and the social determinants of health when developing treatment plans and take care not to stigmatise patients.
Recent studies have questioned whether obesity alone puts individuals at higher risk for severe COVID-19 disease. In light of these conflicting studies and a lack of empty hospital beds, experts recommend that prospective bariatric surgery patients be ranked as urgent access, expediated access, or standard access to surgery based on their current health. Dr Geltrude Mingrone of King’s College London recommends that access to medication-based weight management treatment be increased and those with obesity be prioritised for vaccination only if they have associated comorbidities.
Currently, the NHS only approves one weight management medication, which is used in a limited capacity and is expensive. More effective medications have been taken off the market due to safety concerns. Bariatric surgery can fill demand until safe and effective medications to treat obesity are licensed. The article interviews World Obesity Federation President John Wildling, who emphasises that obesity is a disease and extremely difficult to treat using lifestyle modifications alone.
Some people who contract COVID-19 experience debilitating symptoms for weeks or months, a phenomenon termed “long COVID.” Women, the elderly, those who display a wider variety of symptoms early in the course of illness, and those with overweight or obesity seem to be at higher risk for developing long COVID. Professor Frances Williams speculates that this may be caused by chronic inflammation or increased amounts of fat tissue.
Peas Please, an initiative to increase access to vegetables in the UK, was able to increase vegetable intake by 72.1 million portions despite the impacts of COVID-19 on the supply chain. While this is extremely promising, more must be done to increase vegetable consumption to recommended levels, and the restaurant sector has been hurt badly by COVID-19.
India has high rates of overweight and obesity, with women and those in urban areas being disproportionately affected. Many are seeking out bariatric surgery to avoid weight stigma and improve their quality of life. This article describes the impact of bariatric surgery on multiple recipients.
The State of Nutrition in South Africa, a report funded by Tiger Brands, found that almost half of respondents reported weight gain during COVID-19. Experts in obesity and nutrition hope to develop clearer food labels in order to improve nutrition. Additionally, a panel also recommended the creation of community vegetable gardens, limiting food waste by selling edible but imperfect-looking produce, and coordination between food pantries and the food industry.
The Solomon Islands rely heavily on external food imports. However, supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 have raised concerns about food security, prompting the government to think more critically about promoting the agricultural sector. In turn, this may improve quality of life in rural areas and provide additional jobs for residents.
Kirk Humphrey, Barbadian Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, has begun advocating for children to exercise using Barbados’ many beaches in partnership with the Childhood Obesity Programme. He also hopes to decrease unhealthy foods around schools by educating vendors on healthier options.
Dr Lisa Denike, chief of paediatrics at Kaiser Permanente Northwest, has observed that more of her patients have experienced weight gain due to the pandemic. This has likely been caused by stress, increased sedentary behaviour, decreased physical activity, and rising food insecurity. She lists several recommendations for parents.
In response to an editorial about COVID-19, smoking, and obesity, Dr Ho Ting Fei has written an opinion piece to highlight the physical and economic effects of obesity. He notes that obesity may lead to other deleterious health effects for children and adults, which comprises most disease and disability around the world. He also promotes lifestyle changes, lauding the Singaporean government for improving infrastructure which may prevent the development of overweight and obesity.
A recent survey from LiveLighter® regarding lifestyle behaviours found that almost half of Australians were deliberately trying to lose weight and over 70% were concerned about their weight. Snacking, fast food consumption, and alcohol intake were highest among young adults, parents, and those hit hardest by the financial aspects of the pandemic. This article explains the role of fast-food company marketing in these increases and calls for greater regulation.