Weekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 18th January | World Obesity Federation

Weekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 18th January

NewsWeekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 18th January

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 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.


Global pandemics interconnected — obesity, impaired metabolic health and COVID-19 (Nature Reviews)

According to this review article, obesity is a significant risk factor for severe COVID-19 disease independently of associated comorbidities, although altered blood sugar is also associated with more severe disease. Additionally, infection with COVID-19 may affect cardiovascular health through tissue damage. Therefore, it is suggested that effective anti-obesity interventions be tested and implemented to improve metabolic health.


Why healthy food and its local production should be part of the COVID-19 response (The Conversation)
While the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly disrupted access to food for many, healthy food intake may be a major protective factor against the disease. Food shortages, price increases, and massive increases in unemployment have led to food insecurity, especially among those in the informal sector. Countries can respond by encouraging healthy diets, which will improve human and planetary health simultaneously. Agricultural changes that increase biodiversity and increase growth in more urban places may also be extremely beneficial.


Researchers identify seven criteria to tackle obesity problem in the UK (News Medical)

Experts at the University of Cambridge believe that the UK has previously been unsuccessful in tackling obesity because previous interventions have struggled with implementation, do not take lessons from past interventions into account, and focus more on behaviour than the obesogenic environment. In analysing the interventions, they concluded that there were seven criteria that predicted the success of a policy. Successful interventions partially or fully focus on health disparities and are more interventionist. Obesity is a major health challenge for many across the UK, so it is vital that the government establish policies that can be easily implemented well.


COVID-19 and Obesity (News Medical)

This article summarises what is known, suspected, and hypothesised about COVID-19 and obesity. People with obesity can experience an overreaction of the immune system because specific immune cells are stored in fat tissue and they have constant inflammation, which releases cytokines. Receiving adequate amounts of protein may also be a protective factor, as may the compositions of the gut microbiome.


How the COVID pandemic has impacted issues of obesity (Medical Xpress)

In the US, almost 70% of people are living with overweight or obesity, which is likely being exacerbated by the pandemic. Dr Donald Hensrud, Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program Director, recommends that everyone try to get some activity daily and take frequent breaks. He also provides a list of healthy foods that make up a sustainable, nutrient rich diet.


The childhood obesity crisis started before Covid-19. The pandemic has made it much worse. (The Counter)

US paediatricians are seeing noticeable increases in weight gain for their patients, likely due to the time spent out of school. Diets are less healthy due to the loss of school meals and physical activity has decreased. Relaxation of nutritional standards for schools providing meals during remote learning has led to more ultra-processed food consumption. Some believe that children can now receive more calories, which is necessary for particularly disadvantaged children, and most schools note that less people are able to receive school meals. Parents are less likely to pick up school meals they do not perceive to be nutritious. Co-Founder of FoodCorps Curt Ellis believes that universal school meals should be offered and schools should receive more grants to cook healthier meals.


Three things to know about front of pack nutrition labels in the UK (IGF)

The UK hopes to improve upon its existing traffic light system for front-of-pack food labelling. Online shopping, worries about spending too much time in store, and focus on food choice and availability have decreased consumer use of labels. Shoppers are still fairly good at interpreting the labels but may misjudge portion sizes.


Time to tackle obesity, another threat to global health and wellbeing (Croakey)

While Australia has been extremely successful in limiting transmission of COVID-19, overweight and obesity rates remain high. A group of Australian obesity experts notes that people with obesity were more likely to die of a myriad of causes, including COVID-19, than people of healthy weight. Obesity is highly stigmatised because most people are unaware of environmental factors that contribute to obesity and focus only on the behavioural portions. These experts believe that Australia should use the lessons learned from smoking cessation efforts to combat obesity.


Economist will help map route to a healthier and fairer food system (Mirage)

A team of UK academics will evaluate and make recommendations to improve access to healthy, sustainable food in Birmingham. One of the investigators is very interested in the economics side of obesity. Principal Investigator Professor Martin White notes the impact of COVID-19 on UK food systems and hope that his team’s multidisciplinary approach can be turned into policy.


COVID-19: 'Unjust and unethical' fatness being called a risk factor for coronavirus - Kiwi fat studies scholar (Newshub)

Cat Pausé, a professor at the Massey University Institute of Education, recently published a scientific article critiquing how COVID-19 measures were not inclusive of people with obesity.


COVID-19 to further undermine efforts to improve diets in Asia and Pacific (Dev Discourse)

As it was extremely difficult for many residents of Asian and Pacific countries to afford sufficiently nutritious food before the pandemic, price increases and unemployment due to COVID-19 have likely worsened the situation. Rates of underweight, overweight, and obesity are high in South-east Asia and the Pacific. The article recommends that accessibility of healthy foods be increased through policy change in


Diet, not physical exercise, plays important role in child obesity: Study (The Hindu Business Line)

A recent study from Baylor University found that the traditional idea of “calories in calories out” was not particularly useful in weight loss, while dietary changes were. Children from peri-urban regions expend fewer calories than rural children and mount less of an immune response.


Coronavirus: Will COVID-19 vaccines be less effective for people suffering from obesity? (E Times)

Experts are concerned that COVID-19 vaccines will not be effective in people with obesity, which is especially concerning because people with obesity tend to mount less of an immune response due to low-level inflammation and comorbidities. More research must be done on vaccines in people with obesity and the article recommends that people with obesity follow a healthy lifestyle.


Double Whammy: How Obesity Pandemic Worsens COVID-19 Risk (Gulf News)

The rates of overweight and obesity worldwide have reached pandemic levels. This should be attributed to a complex set of factors, including environmental factors. In the Gulf region, obesity rates among women are especially high, so governments and investors hope to reduce obesity rates to reduce costs and increase productivity. People with obesity are more likely to become severely ill from COVID-19 and to develop comorbidities.


Forget coronavirus, obesity is the real epidemic of the 21st century (The Jerusalem Post) 

While the end of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be in sight, overweight and obesity are both major health issues which contribute to comorbidities. In Israel, 27% of children have obesity and 35% have overweight, which greatly increase diabetes and later Alzheimer’s risk. Genetic, environmental, and social factors all contribute to obesity.


Can 'Big' Be Healthy? Yes -- and No (Medscape) 

According to Dr Arghavan Salles, encouraging media to use models with more diverse body shapes may reduce the stigma and shame of having obesity. Weight and health are related, but fitness may better predict life expectancy, as people with obesity can be metabolically healthy. He advocates for more nuance and less fat-shaming when talking about plus-size modes and entertainers.