Weekly News Digest: Obesity and Covid 19 - 1st June

NewsWeekly News Digest: Obesity and Covid 19 - 1st June

Welcome to the fifth weekly digest of stories about COVID-19, obesity and related challenges from across the globe.

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.


  • How COVID-19 and climate are encouraging islands to invest in food security (Devex)
    • COVID-19 has inspired many island nations to focus on agriculture, reducing reliance on imports. The Cook Islands specifically to support farmers by providing some free equipment and require families to plant native fruits and vegetables. These methods will prepare for the worsening climate crisis and create a more sustainable food supply.
  • Opinion: Building a resilient food system in Sri Lanka in an age of pandemic (Lanka Business Online)
    • Due to lockdowns, transport difficulties, and reliance on imports, food shortages in Sri Lanka are currently occurring. While the government has implemented some measures to alleviate the impact of the pandemic, these have not been sufficient. The author of this blog advocates for the creation of centralized food distribution, ways to protect this from corruption, and greater use of digital marketing.
  • Food security: Lessons to be learnt from Covid-19 (By The East)
    • This article discusses the impact of global warming and COVID-19 on food systems in developed countries. It acknowledges the beneficial impacts lockdown has had on the planet and advocates for the creation of a more sustainable food system.
  • U.S. high ranking for obesity, diabetes, heart disease not a good mix with coronavirus (Cleveland.com)
    • Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary, publicly acknowledged that high rates of NCDs may explain the high number of fatalities from COVID-19 in the US. Previous research into chronic disease prevalence supports this claim.
  • Covid 19 coronavirus: Japan defies health expert fears and avoid massive coronavirus, while experts query the mystery of why (NZ Herald)
    • Japan has managed to control the spread of COVID-19 remarkably well, especially considering the population skews older and population density is high. The reasons for this success are unknown, but experts speculate it may have to do with cultural practices, a universal healthcare system, a tuberculosis vaccine, and remarkably low obesity rates.
  • Food focus of new COVID-19 study (Mirage)
    • A new study in Tasmania plans to examine the accessibility of healthy food in the country in light of COVID-19. It is intended to “help researchers, industry and policymakers understand what Tasmanian residents want for the future in terms of food access and production in the State.”
  • EDITORIAL: HEALTH AND WELLNESS KEY DURING PANDEMIC (Barbados Advocate)
    • Citing WOF, this article indicates that obesity may cause severe disease in people with COVID-19, but measures to treat and prevent obesity have largely been suspended due to the pandemic. Obesity rates in Barbados are extremely high and contribute to subsequently high rates of NCDs. This article advocates for people to practice healthy behaviors during lockdown.
  • It’s Not Obesity. It’s Slavery. (New York Times)
    • This piece examined health disparities in African Americans due to the legacy of slavery and continuing systemic racism. While the African American community reports higher rate of overweight and obesity than other ethnic groups, this alone cannot fully explain their high fatality rate from COVID-19. Instead, the author points to the lack of social supports and weight bias as a possible explanation.
  • In the largest-ever study of coronavirus cases outside China, 26% of patients died. Their symptoms came in 'clusters.' (Business Insider Australia)
    • A recent study from the UK used 20,133 patients to determine risk factors and common symptoms caused by SARS-CoV-2. Obesity was a significant contributor to severe disease or death from the virus, in addition to being male, elderly, or having heart, lung, kidney or liver conditions. Most (but not all) patients showed respiratory symptoms, some developed skin conditions, and a significant proportion reported gastrointestinal symptoms.
  • Linking Energy, Food Security, and Health Can Help Face COVID-19 (IISD)
    • COVID-19 is projected to increase food insecurity across the globe. This article argues for the increasing localization of food supply chains and turning to renewable energy to address the issue. This will create jobs, increase productivity, and be more sustainable than current agricultural practices.
  • Coronavirus: New study launched as pandemic changes our food habits (The Press and Journal)
    • A new study from The James Hutton Institute aims to determine if people are developing healthier and more sustainable behaviors during lockdown and if these will continue when it is lifted. As NCDs related to diet may increase a person’s risk of dying from the virus, this research may impact UK policy.
  • Coronavirus, Obesity and Undernutrition: The Triple Burden for Latin America (PLOS)
    • Latin America is the middle of transitioning from health issues predominantly related undernutrition to health issues predominantly  related to overnutrition, so both issues are contributing to the impact of COVID-19 on the region. The pandemic will likely disrupt efforts to promote breastfeeding, increase prices of healthy foods, and limit access to exercise facilities. The article also outlines several recommendations to continue to prevent and treat obesity during the pandemic.
  • NMSU researchers launch survey on COVID-19 impact on food security, access (New Mexico State News Center)
    • Scientists from New Mexico State University and the University of New Mexico recently began a state-wide survey to determine “how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the food system, food access and affordability in the state.”
  • Covid-19 crisis highlights supply chain vulnerability (Financial Times)
    • While some parts of the food supply chain are managing transport restrictions well, others are suffering. Meat packing plants in the US, Australia, and Ireland have been closed due to the virus and small-scale farmers are unable to sell products in their usual markets. Experts recommend shortening supply chains to attempt to fight the increase in food insecurity and widespread poverty due to the pandemic.
  • Kenya: Coronavirus Worsens Malnutrition Burden (All Africa)
    • Efforts to control malnutrition in all its forms in Africa will likely be set back due to the pandemic. Food access, especially among school children, is decreasing. However, those who can afford food will likely consume more shelf-stable products, also increasing obesity rates.
  • Restarting Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (GSN)
    • As hospitals prepare to allow non-emergency surgeries to be performed again, they look to how these has been implemented in China. There are still questions about how patients should be triaged in terms of when they receive surgery. The article encourages physicians to consider the resources and situation they are currently working in.
  • Publication focuses on impact of Covid-19 on hunger, food security (IOL)
    • The new publication “World Hunger Day 2020 Challenging False Narratives in a Global Crisis: Reflections on Human Rights, Inequality and Securing Food Systems” reveals the necessity of fundamentally restructuring the food system of South Africa to ensure security.  While the constitution of South Africa gives all citizens the right to food, this is not a reality for many. COVID-19 has severely worsened the crisis for many.
  • Demands for government intervention on obesity to help cut 'increased but preventable' COVID-19 death risk (Food Navigator)
    • Action on Sugar and Action on Salt are advocacy groups who recently made a list of proposals designed to reduce obesity and improve diets across the UK. As Britain has an extremely high mortality rate from COVID-19, which some speculate may be tied to obesity rates, there is a possibility that these reforms may save lives and boost immunity.
  • The Dangerous Link Between Coronavirus and Obesity (Elemental)
    • This article argues that obesity is a proven risk factor for severe disease and death from COVID-19, citing recent studies. As a result, it advocates for focus on obesity prevention and treatment, especially considering how obesity rates are projected to grow.