Weekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 28th September

NewsWeekly News Digest: Obesity and COVID-19 - 28th 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.


News

Studies Begin to Untangle Obesity’s Role in Covid-19 (The New York Times)

While studies suggest that obesity is tied to worse COVID-19 disease, the relationship between the two is extremely complex, so socioeconomic factors, quality of care, and associated comorbidities must be accounted for. People with excess weight may have more difficulty breathing and may develop more blood clots than those without. Additionally, immune dysfunction may occur, which dampens the initial response and then overcompensates by causing dangerous levels of inflammation.  The article also discusses different responses to vaccines and weight bias in healthcare.

Patients With Obesity at Greater Risk for COVID-19 Complications and Mortality (Endocrinology Advisor)

A recent retrospective cohort study examined medical records of 41,513 patients to determine that patients with obesity were significantly more likely to be hospitalised, intubated, and to die of the disease. However, the use of medical records introduced some possible sources of the error into the study as the researchers could not confirm observations to identify discrepancies.

Survey: Despite COVID-19, food consumption remains steady in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (IFPRI)

Surveys done by phone in the capital of Ethiopia before and during the pandemic suggest that food insecurity has not increased among most residents of Addis Ababa despite declining incomes. These finding suggest that exclusively recording how many households report a loss of income may lead researches to dramatically overestimate how much poverty and welfare has increased. While consumption of some foods paused during the initial stage of the pandemic, food chains have been fairly resilient in the area, although research should be done regarding price increases to determine the accessibility of a nutritious diet.

Covid-19 has killed more people than obesity in the UK this year (Full Fact)

This page evaluates the claim that obesity causes more daily deaths in the UK than COVID-19 does. While Public Health England has said that obesity may be to blame for approximately 30,000 deaths each year, this is an estimate and should not be compared against diagnosed COVID-19 deaths. Additionally, COVID-19 deaths are likely underreported due to diagnostic criteria, making this claim most likely incorrect.

Older, overweight and male: Trump's COVID risk factors make him vulnerable (UK Reuters)

US president Donald Trump has been diagnosed with COVID-19. The president is male, is over 65 years old, and has overweight, all of which may increase his risk for severe disease. However, he will receive excellent medical care (which will benefit from months of treating this virus) and is very active, which may also mitigate his risk.

Smoking and obesity increase risk of severe COVID-19 and sepsis (Imperial College London News)

A recent study found that patients who smoked or had excess weight were more likely to develop severe COVID-19 and sepsis. Scientists identified patients with genetic mutations known to be caused by smoking or obesity, which helped to mitigate confounding factors like diet and lifestyle. Scientists recommend that public health messaging continue to advocate for weight management and smoking cessation.

Two in every five Filipino adults are overweight, obese – nutrition survey (Manilla Bulletin)

A recent survey indicated that over 37% of adults in the Philippines are living with overweight or obesity.  The results were announced at the Obesity Awareness Online Forum, which educated participants about obesity and weight management during the pandemic.

Heart Foundation of Jamaica welcomes front-of-package label guidebook (Loop)

Front of pack labelling initiatives interventions have shown to be effective in combating obesity. Vital Strategies, University of North Carolina’s Global Food Research Program, and other partners recently developed a guidebook titled “Guide to Introducing Effective Front-of-Package Nutrient Labels”, which has been supported by the Heart Foundation of Jamaica. This is particularly important due to high obesity rates in Jamaica, especially among children, and the prevalence of preventable deaths linked to diet-related disease.

 


Opinion

It's now up to health systems to solve our food problems (The Hill)

Dr Sarah Mathathia believes that food should be used as medicine to treat diet-related diseases like obesity, especially considering that the free market alone has proven itself unable mitigate food insecurity given the prevalence of food deserts, food swamps, and government subsidies for highly processed foods. COVID-19 has drastically increased food insecurity within the United States, which underscores persisting inequities and has been repeatedly linked to chronic diseases. Nutritional interventions can and have aided patients in weight management. Dr Mathathia adds that the role of trauma in obesity must also be addressed, especially in the context of COVID-19.

UNE’s Michele Polacsek co-writes op-ed on distance learning’s effects on nutrition (Mirage News)

COVID-19 has necessitated virtual learning for students, but this may lead to unhealthy diets and subsequent diet-related disease. Students have limited or no access to nutritious school meals. Educational platforms may also display advertising for ultra-processed foods that are banned in a physical school environment.

Weight Isn't The Problem With COVID-19. How We Talk About It Is. (HuffPost)

Christine Byrne writes that public health messaging surrounding associations between severe COVID-19 and obesity is covertly stigmatising as it demonises fat. Academics Laurie Ciper Stoll and Darci Thoune of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse discuss weight stigma, especially in medical settings, and challenge the conception that fat is inherently detrimental to health, asking the public to be mindful of comments that may be fat-phobic. Additionally, people living with obesity are internalizing the message that they themselves are solely responsible for weight gain, which is untrue but may then lead to heightened anxiety.

Wellness Expert James Hill Tells Healthline That Being Healthy Is More Than Just Losing Weight (Healthline)

This interview with Dr James Hill, a world-renowned expert on obesity, discusses wellness as an overall state of health. He advocates for a simpler, more inclusive definition of wellness (focussing on both physical and mental health aspects) with a defined objective measurement, especially as it pertains to chronic disease. Instead of current reactive approaches to disease management, he hopes to create a culture of wellness, purpose, and positive lifestyle effects

Full list of people who should get coronavirus vaccine first, according to health experts (Chronicle Live)

The UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has developed guidance on which groups will be prioritised for COVID-19 vaccination. They indicate that elderly residents of and workers at care homes should be vaccinated first, followed by health workers and those over 80. The rest of the list is based on age and level of risk, determined by underlying conditions like obesity. Experts emphasise that this list is subject to change depending on emerging health data and vaccine effectiveness in older adults.

Reformulation and innovation support healthier, more sustainable diets (Food Manufacture)

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of food manufacturers in providing nutritious products. A recent publication of the Nutrition Bulletin outlines how products may be reformulated to increase nutritional content, decrease excess sugar and saturated fat, and become more environmentally friendly. This article was written by Professor Judy Buttriss of the British Nutrition Foundation.

Editorial: Access to affordable food averts hunger (Business Mirror)

While the development of a vaccine is anxiously awaited by all, it will take a substantial period of time to administer doses to everyone who needs one. In the mean time, unemployment will continue to exacerbate food insecurity in the Philippines and elsewhere. Strategies to solve food insecurity are urgently needed in both the short- and long- term.

Reimagining Agriculture during COVID-19 and Beyond (Kashmir Monitor)

While COVID-19 has had devastating impact on most aspects of the economy, Indian agriculture has managed to grow. Despite some problems in transportation, the sector remained fairly resilient, helped greatly by a government-funded economic package. However, the agricultural sector must be transformed so that pulses and oilseed cultivation increases, research and development funding is heightened, mechanization occurs, new technologies proliferate, and supply chains are shortened.