Welcome to the next weekly digest of stories about COVID-19, obesity and related challenges from across the globe fpr the 6th July 2020.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- COVID-19 lockdowns have severely disrupted the growing season in Kenya which may lead to famine when combined with previous crop failures. The author advocates for the development of a more sustainable and secure agricultural system. As of now, the country relies heavily on imports of wheat and rice.
- A recent report from the United Nations indicates that economic fallout from COVID-19 may greatly increase the number of people in South America and the Caribbean in poverty. Unemployment and rising food prices may result in hunger or a shift toward cheaper, less healthy foods. The report gives several recommendations, such as grants for those in poverty and support for small-scale farms
- Canada and the United States are facing similar food system issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ontario is taking steps to protect the food system by implementing recommendations from the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Grower’s association, lifting some bureaucratic regulations, and lowering some taxes. These measures may lead to long term changes.
- This article describes how grants given to NGOs in and around Chicago are strengthening the food system. In the fall, priorities will shift from funding emergency food initiatives to long-term solutions to build resilience. Minority communities are also being prioritized in the funding process.
- Under Boris Johnson, the government of the UK is developing and implementing a variety of programs to encourage exercise and healthy eating habits. It also plans to expand access to bariatric surgery and regulate advertising of unhealthy products. Experts have theorized that the severity of the pandemic in the UK reflects high obesity rate throughout the region.
- Many people, like Seoul resident Park Seung-yun, are exercising much less in lockdown and are therefore gaining weight. As obesity is associated with worse outcomes from COVID-19, this is not ideal. Outbreaks have occurred at gyms and people are still getting used to exercising while wearing masks, although some experts warn against exercising in a mask and instead encourages outdoor exercise.
- The CDC has update its list of risk factors for severe COVID-19 to include obesity in general (instead of just BMI over 40). They also acknowledge that the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases, including obesity, as a possible reason why the US has struggled to contain the pandemic. Cases are increasing rapidly in younger people.
- If normal rice planting operations cannot be resumed later this month, Cambodia may face food shortages. Agriculture is a major contributor to GDP and employs slightly under a third of Cambodians, so inadequate harvests (which are already being disrupted by climate change) will have major effects on the livelihoods of farmworkers. Additionally, staple food prices are increasing significantly, increasing food insecurity.
- Diabetes UK is criticizing government regulations for protections in the workplace, as the “reasonable adjustments” described in official guidance are decided upon by employers. In response, they are encouraging the UK to provide compensation for those with risk factors for severe COVID-19. An open letter was sent to business secretary Alok Sharma.
- SARS-CoV-2 may transform blood platelets indirectly, making them “hyperactive” and therefore increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. A study was done using 41 patients (17 in critical care) matched with healthy patients. This finding could explain why people with underlying conditions such as obesity are more likely to experience worse outcomes.
- COVID-19 has significantly disrupted the global food system, which already suffered from a myriad of weaknesses. The pandemic is already driving some changes by shortening food chains, but more is needed to prevent hunger across the world, especially in Latin American and the Caribbean. Next year’s Food Systems Summit plans to use this opportunity to increase equity and sustainability by restructuring the food chain.
- The pandemic is affecting food security in a variety of ways. Countries are attempting to establish more agricultural self-sufficiency, but malnutrition in all its forms is still increasing for the most part, leading to loss of productivity. The author directly mentions diet-related noncommunicable diseases but uses the term over-eating instead of overnutrition. He recommends using government guidelines, improving agricultural practices, and changing public perception of food to combat the damaging effect of the food industry.
- According to Franziska Gaupp of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, shocks to the global food system (like COVID-19) are more widespread and may come from events unrelated to agriculture as a result of interconnections. Currently, a sufficient quantity of food is produced to feed everyone across the world, but a significant proportion of people still go hungry, and hunger is projected to increase with the fallout of climate change. Better modeling, accounting for the political economy of trading nations, and international cooperation are all needed to improve food systems.
- While obesity has been linked to severe COVID-19 disease and death, treatment options for obesity are harder to access as a result of the pandemic, and people are developing obesity at a faster rate in lockdown. The article provides several guidelines on how to maintain fitness levels and adequate nutrition.
- Lockdowns and restaurant closures have drastically altered the dietary habits of Americans, with more homecooked meals and less food waste. More planning goes into buying food now than before the pandemic, hopefully making the process more sustainable on the consumer side. Food banks are also integral for helping provide healthy diets. Hopefully, shifts in consumer behavior will persist after the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce chronic disease rates, including obesity.
- Many studies have founded that individuals living with diabetes and/ or obesity are at higher risk for severe disease, Unregulated blood sugar decreases immunity and can lead to complications, although nothing has been definitively proven. Obesity may restrict breathing and difficulties in providing care. The article lists several pieces of advice for those living with these conditions to help keep themselves safe.
- Food supply disruptions due to COVID-19 have led many experts to reflect on the benefits of small-scale agriculture. This article points out several similarities between effective methods in a variety of developing countries, such as the use of organic practices, development of cooperatives, and emphasis on crop biodiversity. These solutions will result in healthier products for consumers and higher profits for farmers.
- Using step counts from fitness trackers across the world, researchers have observed a significant decline in physical activity. Results varied by country (and its COVID response), with countries that did not implement lockdowns showing a smaller but existing reduction in steps than countries that implemented strict lockdowns early. As many of the comorbidities that increase the severity of COVID-19 infection are associated with low physical activity, this finding is important.
- A recent meta-analysis has found a correlation between high BMI and worse outcomes with COVID-19. Mortality, morbidity, admission to intensive care, mechanical ventilation, and the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome were all defined as poor outcomes. While the mechanism by which COVID-19 causes worse outcomes in those living with obesity is not currently known, the article provides some theories and notes that lifestyle changes may be necessary in the absence of a cure.
- The government of India has decided to extend a program to provide free grain for vulnerable residents until November. The government has plenty of supplies with which to implement this measure, so food scarcity should not be an issue. Some argue that this should be used to expand the program to account for those suffering economically as a direct result of the virus.
- A meta-analysis was conducted to determine whether people living with obesity were more likely to have worse outcomes if they also contracted COVID-19. Researchers identified 9 articles ( six of which were retrospective case-control studies, four of which were retrospective cohort studies, and one of which used both methods) and extracted data from each. Limitations included heterogeneity in study design (particularly regarding the definition of obesity), lack of comorbidity reporting, and low quantity of studies used.