Weekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 14th September | World Obesity Federation

Weekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 14th September

NewsWeekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 14th September

We will be 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 every Monday during the current pandemic. If you have any stories from your country or discipline, please send through to us at eneeds@worldobesity.org.


Obesity greatest risk factor for young adults with COVID-19 — study (Inquirer.Net)

A study of 3,000 COVID-19 patients in US hospitals found that Black and Hispanic patients comprised 57% of hospitalised young adults and 49% of deaths or ventilated patients. As with previous studies, men were more likely to be hospitalised than women, as were those with high blood pressure and diabetes. People with class III obesity (BMI over 40) were particularly likely to experience poor outcomes as 41% of patients that were placed on a ventilator or died had this condition.

Obesity post-PHE: Will the UK’s new National Institute of Health Protection ‘hold the government’s feet to the fire’? (Food Navigator)

Public Health England, the UK’s major public health body, is being dismantled and replaced with the National Institute of Health and Protection. While multiple government employees praise the work done by Public Health England regarding obesity and promise to continue data collection activities, experts are concerned that the new agency with place too much emphasis on COVID-19 and lose sight of chronic diseases like obesity. Previous reorganisations of government departments have not led to better outcomes.

Government progress ‘slow’ in tackling childhood obesity (Dentistry.co.uk)

A report from the UK’s National Audit Office indicates that previous interventions to control childhood obesity have been inadequate. The number of children living with obesity has grown, as has the healthcare costs of treating them. Disparities in obesity rates by socioeconomic status and ethnic group are also apparent. In the future, the Department of Health and Social Care is advised to develop a centralised evidence base, create stronger measures for the Childhood Obesity Programme before next year, provide funding and support to local groups for local interventions, and develop a schedule. The report was generated before COVID-19.

Lockdown's impact on overweight and obese people explored in report by Leeds academics (Yorkshire Evening Post)

A recent survey was conducted among 3,000 British children and adults with obesity. The survey indicated that the majority of patients living with obesity considered themselves to be at higher risk of infection from COVID-19, but almost 75% of the adults experienced delays or cancelations to their services and 70% felt they did not receive enough support or education. The vast majority of children and adults indicated managing emotions through eating and exercising less (likely due to stress), feeling isolated, and experiencing food poverty

Obesity may increase fatal complications in COVID-19 (DW)

This interview with Barry Popkin, lead author of a metanalysis linking obesity to COVID-19, highlights obesity as a major risk factor for severe disease. Popkin explains this through immune dysfunction and physiological issues, also mentioning the limitations of vaccines in people with obesity. Popkin calls upon government regulatory bodies to change the food environment.

Even 'modest' weight gain can increase risk of most severe form of Covid-19, study finds (The Telegraph)
Overweight, not just obesity, can contribute to COVID-19 severity, according to two large studies done in the US and the UK. This may have major policy implications as over 66% of people in western nations are living with overweight or obesity.

When Obesity-Driven Meta-Inflammation Meets SARS-CoV-2 (Contagion Live)

This article based on a recent study reviews why patients with COVID-19 and underlying metabolic conditions, including obesity, may experience more severe disease. People with obesity tend to have constant low-level inflammation, which increases the risk of death from COVID-19, as well as high levels of inflammatory molecules that may cause a cytokine storm (a dangerous overreaction of the immune system). The study authors recommend that more patients with obesity be included in drug and vaccine trials.

The Majority Of Children Who Die From COVID-19 Are Children Of Color (KGOU)

A recent CDC report indicates that major racial disparities exist among COVID-19 deaths in children- almost 80% of these deaths occur in children of colour. Three quarters of these children also had some underlying condition, one of the most common being obesity. Experts encourage parents to take sick children to hospitals immediately, to re-evaluate school re-openings, and to consider the social determinants of health in policy development.

Nigeria: Obesity Nigeria's Growing Health Concern – Report (All Africa)

NA report from the health technology companies WellNewMe indicates that Nigeria is experiencing significant rates of both over- and undernutrition, with almost 33% of women living with overweight or obesity. Experts have noticed a link between obesity, wealth, more education, age, and geographic location in women.

COVID-19: Comorbidities a Serious Concern for Employers (HR Daily Advisor)

This article, intended for Human Resources managers, encourages the promotion of healthy eating and exercise among employees. It specifically directs these managers to make sure that healthcare benefits include nutrition counselling, that such counselling is accessible to all employees, and that care is targeted to each individual.

Maltese business discusses future of Europe’s food system (Times of Malta)

This article summarises a webinar hosted by the Malta Business Bureau and the European Commission Representation regarding the EU Farm to Fork Strategy. The strategy is intended to make food production more sustainable. Businesses are concerned about binding targets on EU member states, nutrition labelling in restaurants, and origin indications, which were discussed at the webinar.

COVID-19 works with the body's microbiota to increase disease severity in obese and diabetic patients (News Medical)

A recently published article examines the relationship between COVID-19, obesity, and the gut microbiota. One theory explaining why people with obesity experience worse outcomes if they become ill with COVID-19 focusses on the heightened expression of ACE2 receptors that the virus uses to enter cells and replicate, therefore increasing the amount of virus in people with obesity. Gut bacteria may also trigger cell signalling that leads to scar tissue in the lungs, as shown in pigs with the original SARS virus. Therefore, these authors suggest that, after SARS-CoV-2 destroys enough ACE2 receptors, the gut microbiota may be able to enter the blood stream, leading to lung injury and overactivity of the immune system.

G20 ministers discuss post-Covid food, water security issues (Trade Arabia)

Agricultural ministers from the twenty largest economies met to discuss food and water security during and after the pandemic. Areas of emphasis included free trade, investment in agriculture, food waste, and the need for technology. As the population is projected to increase to 9 billion people, it is vital to develop the necessary infrastructure to feed them, despite the added complications of climate change. Members also discussed the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as One Health (a philosophy that emphasises the interconnectedness of human, animal, and planetary health).

Patna: Increase in lifestyle diseases amid Covid-19 curbs (The Times of India)

After India began to relax some COVID-19 restrictions, three times as many people came to the Patna Medical College and Hospital, most due to noncommunicable diseases like obesity. Experts blame the increase in sedentary activity due to the lockdown.

Obesity now joins the list of “underlying health conditions” that make COVID a higher-risk illness (KY3)

Kathryn Wall, Public Information Administrator with the Greene County Health Department in Missouri claims that people who are not currently experiencing symptoms may still have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 and encourages them to be particularly careful, especially due to the prevalence of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission. Obesity is listed among the known risk factors for severe illness.

Food insecurity increases exponentially with COVID-19 (Albany Herald)

Volunteers and staff at food banks in Georgia have observed greatly increased demand for food. School closures are a factor, as is unemployment, and demand has increased even more now that schools have reopened. Workers credit government waivers allowing them to provide more food and food stamps with the current successes of this programme but indicate more will need to be done long-term.

These Conditions Put Young People at Higher Risk for COVID-19 (Healthline)

While COVID-19 is most dangerous in the elderly, young adults (18-34) may experience severe outcomes if they are hospitalised with the disease. More than a fifth required intensive care, 10% required ventilators, and almost 3% died. Researchers found that patients with chronic diseases (like class III obesity) or those from minority ethnic groups were more likely to experience to worse outcomes. Obesity is specifically associated with blood clots and reduced lung function. It is recommended that people follow social distancing guidelines.

Africa: A World Without Hunger Is Also About Protecting Food (allAfrica)

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, reducing food waste and loss will in turn reduce hunger, carbon emissions, and water and land usage while also increasing economic productivity. This can be done through technological innovations, better crop management after harvests, changes in food packaging, lessening regulations about the appearance of food, and government policies regarding surplus food. Saving from these measures may completely offset the costs of over- and undernutrition. Furthermore, governments should focus on communication and nutrition in agricultural policy.

Lots of U.S. cities could grow their own food locally (Axios)

A study from Tuft’s university showed that, theoretically, 387 urban areas could be fed entirely by farmers within 250km. While this would require the restructuring of the food system, Chicago, Seattle, and Denver could benefit greatly. However, New York, Los Angles, and Miami, as well as other cities on the East Coast or in the South West would be unable to feed their populations with local food entirely, despite existing desire for locally grown foods. The lead author notes that the terms local and region foods do not have a set definition, posing a limitation to the study.

Coronavirus – Africa: COVID-19 impacts driving up acute hunger in countries already in food crisis (The Guardian Nigeria)

The Global Network Against Food Crises recently convened to discuss hunger as a result of COVID-19 in vulnerable countries. They stressed that the Food and Agriculture COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme is intended to support those most at risk of hunger by emphasising economic inclusion, social safety nets, and resiliency. Many countries are reporting severe increases in hunger, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Central African republic, Honduras, and Lesotho.

Feature: Israel strives to rescue food for more people in need amidst COVID-19 crisis (Xinhua Net)

Israeli charities are responding to major increases in food security among residents by attempting to redistribute food supplies before wastage occurs. The largest food rescue organisation in the country, Leket Israel, receives excess food from businesses, although some businesses are hesitant to pay the necessary costs for them to do so. Child poverty and food insecurity is high in the region, so the redistribution of nutritious food is integral.

In 12 U.S. states, at least 35% are obese, 2019 CDC data shows (Reuters)

12 US states report that over 35% of their population are currently living with obesity. Racial disparities exist within obesity rates, as almost 40% of Black adults have obesity, almost 34% of Hispanic adults, and almost 30% of white adults. Younger adults and those with a higher level of education were less likely to have obesity.

As many as 51% of all school employees are at increased risk of Covid-19 infection, study finds (CNN)

A preprint from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 40-50% of workers at schools have at least one risk factor that makes the more susceptible to severe COVID-19. Obesity and high blood pressure were cited as the most common of these risk factors. Additionally, almost two out of every three employees and almost three out of every five schoolchildren live with another person at high risk of COVID-19. It should be noted that the data analysed was collected before the onset of the pandemic and it is likely that this situation has worsened because of it.


Healthy snacks to change way you eat from Susie Burrell (Perth Now Australia)

Nutritionist Susie Burrell claims that many of her clients are snacking more as a result of working from home. She believes that snacks should be low-calorie foods packed with fibre and provides recipes for healthier snacks. Additionally, she highlights that people attempting to avoid unhealthy foods should do their best not to buy them.

Kwesi Marshall | What’s In Our Food? - Addressing Obesity Prevention Through Front-Of-Package Labelling (Jamaica Gleaner)

Dr Kwesi Marshall, chairman of the National Food Industry Task Force is advocating for front-of-pack labelling to be mandated in Jamaica in order to alert consumers to nutritional content of foods, thereby helping curtail the obesity and noncommunicable disease epidemic. This is especially important due to high obesity rates in Jamaica, which then necessitates a large amount of healthcare spending and contributes significantly to mortality (both in general and directly related to COVID-19). Front-of-pack labelling has been a successful intervention in other countries, including Chile.

After years of waiting for action on chronic disease prevention, COVID-19 provides an opportunity (Croakey)

The current pandemic has highlighted the importance of disease prevention for both communicable and noncommunicable disease. Governments must shift policy away from focussing on personal responsibility and towards changing the food environment, likely by implementing highly recommended and cost-effective interventions as recommended by the WHO. While Australia has recently created the framework for a new National Preventative Health Strategy, strong leadership is continually needed. This piece was written by Emma Lonsdale, executive Officer of the Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance.

'A savagely broken food system': Cory Booker wants radical reform ... now (the Guardian)

American senator Cory Booker is working to create major changes in the US food system from both a public health and healthy equity perspective, proposing the Farm System Reform Act, which would prevent Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from expanding. This may help to stem new and emerging infectious diseases as well as antibiotic resistance. Additionally, current farming practices are not particularly sustainable. He emphasises the need for racial equity in reducing food insecurity and protecting farm workers, who are predominantly people of colour.

Rebuilding food and agriculture sector on the back of COVID-19 (Khmer Times) 

The impacts of COVID-19 will likely include a food crisis if major steps are not taken to prevent it, as the number of people going hungry has almost doubled. Barriers to ending hunger, such as climate change, poverty, and pests, must also be accounted for. The author recommends better data collection, regional and international cooperation, and increased investment into technology, particularly by using the private sector. This article was written by Qu Dongyu, Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Can Covid-19 become a catalyst for nutritional self-reliance? (The Daily Star) 

According to Firdousi Naher, Economics Professor at the University of Dhaka, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the limitations of the Bangladeshi food system. While Bangladesh produces more than enough rice for its population, land could be better allocated towards more nutrient dense crops to ensure nutritional security for all residents. More research is needed into more varied, resilient crops, and policies must be adjusted to protect domestic farmers. The author provides a list of recommendations for a holistic approach to agriculture.

Diet – the biggest Covid risk factor that nobody talks about (Israel 21 C)

According to endocrinologist Mariela Glandt, dietary changes are extremely helpful in treating metabolic disease, especially the ketogenic diet. While traditional Israeli diets are fairly nutritious, overconsumption of unhealthy western foods has led to a major increase in overweight and obesity.

Baptist Health surgeon talks tackling obesity as nation's adult obesity rate peaks (WPSD)

A recent CDC report revealed that obesity rates among adults are higher than ever, which is particularly dangerous due to COVID-19. Experts recommend nutrition education. Dr Anthony Davis, a surgeon at Baptist Health Paducah, stresses that obesity is a disease and urges people to avoid weight bias.

Urban experts discuss city wellbeing post-Covid-19 (The New Times)

The Wellbeing Cities Forum is being held online this year and will focus the promotion of health in cities, especially because of COVID-19. As mental health problems and obesity rates are expected to grow due to COVID-19 shutdowns, it vital to design cities that can mitigate and cope with these new effects. Additionally, urban poverty will likely increase.

Health experts want India to emulate UK’s cycling strategy to fight obesity (Eastern Eye)

Some physicians and health workers believe India should emulate Public Health England’s cycling initiative as part of its obesity strategy, especially given rising obesity rates. This will give people a safe way to work out during the pandemic and easily allows for social distancing. Moving towards active transport may help with a variety of adverse health conditions and reduce pollution, which in turn could save 18 billion pounds.