Weekly News Digest: Obesity and Covid 19 - 8th June | World Obesity Federation

Weekly News Digest: Obesity and Covid 19 - 8th June

NewsWeekly News Digest: Obesity and Covid 19 - 8th June

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

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.


  • FAO urges African leaders on AfCFTA implementation to tackle post-COVID-19 food crisis (Vangard)
    • The African Continental Free Trade Area, designed to create economic growth and promote trade within Africa, could be used to lessen the impact of COVID-19 associated food insecurity in the region. While many member countries still need to deposit instruments of ratification, experts believe lowering tariffs and implementing some other reforms could improve Africa’s agricultural self-sufficiency.
  • COVID-19 and food insecurity (The Himalayan)
    • Nepal is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic in that food insecurity has increased, purchasing power has decreased, remittance will likely also decrease, residents may not be able to search for jobs abroad, and agriculture will be disrupted. The author calls for fair food distribution through food banks or vouchers, the development of a social safety net and benefits for farmers, and government assessments into food needs.
  • What Kind Of Innovation Will We Apply To Build Our Post-COVID Food System (Forbes)
    • This article details the types of disruption that will fuel technology development in response to COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 significantly impacts health services for noncommunicable diseases(WHO)
    • The diversion of resources towards fighting COVID-19 has taken them away from essential prevention and treatment services regarding NCDS, especially in lower-income countries. Fewer than half of these countries included these services in COVID-19 response plans as compared to 72% of higher-income countries. However, many countries have begun using telemedicine, triaging, and collecting data on COVID-patients also diagnosed with NCDs. Obesity was not explicitly mentioned as an NCD.
  • Common ‘overlooked’ conditions could increase Covid-19 risk (Pretoria East Rekord)
    • A recent statement by the South African Minister of Health alerted the public that those with obesity, diabetes and hypertension are at  greater risk of developing severe disease from COVID-19. It outlines each of these diseases and gives instructions for readers to calculate their BMI.
  • 10% With Diabetes Hospitalized for COVID-19 Die Within a Week (MedScape)
    • A recent study from France examined 1317 diabetic COVID-19 patients. Of these, more than 10% passed away and almost 33% needed to be placed on a ventilator within a week of admission. Obesity was found to be an independent risk factor for poor outcomes as well.
  • More Kids At Risk Of Obesity In US Amid COVID-19 Pandemic (MSN)
    • A recent study projected that lockdowns due to COVID-19 will cause American childhood obesity rates to increase by 2.4%. School closures and lack of physical activity exacerbated by limited or no access  to healthy food are responsible for this drastic increase.
  • Trevor Hassell | Time For Paradigm Shift In Production And Consumption Of Healthy Food (The Gleaner)
    • The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the need to prevent and treat the chronic conditions that make people more vulnerable to the virus. The author suggests improving diet quality and following recommendations outlined in the  ‘Strengthening food and nutrition security in the Caribbean: a legacy response to the COVID-19 pandemic’ report.
  • Medicine Is Failing Patients With Obesity (Medscape)
    • As preliminary evidence has found a link between COVID-19 and obesity, many have suggested people with overweight and obesity should lose weight. However, these recommendations do not take the cost of or access medication or surgery, weight stigma from physicians, or difficulty in losing weight purely from lifestyle modifications into account.
  • Opinion: A food data revolution in the COVID-19 era (Devex)
    • This article encourages nations to use disruptions due to COVID-19 to create a better food system and implement real time data collection. This data is vital for policymakers, consumers, and researchers. Additionally, data must be organized, transparent, of high quality, and comparable on the international level.
  • Pre-COVID-19 poll of older adults hints at potential impact of pandemic on eating habits (Medical Xpress)
    • A poll taken before lockdowns were implemented reveal that many older Americans were comfortable cooking at home (which is associated with healthier diets) but had never before used grocery delivery apps. The authors speculate that many have been eating at home during the height of the pandemic, but now that restaurants are reopening, people may choose to eat less healthy meals. Alternately, food insecurity due to economic uncertainty may limit healthy options. As families begin to eat together, it is important to continue to protect the elderly from a nutritional and infection control standpoint.
  • Our Neighborhood at High Risk (Community Reporter)
    • A recent report done in two Minnesota cities examines which neighborhoods are more likely to experience outbreaks of COVID-19. These are based on rates of NCDs such as obesity, the proportion of elderly residents, and average economic status. The authors note that the pandemic is highlighting and worsening disparities among residents in the Minnesota area.
  • Coronavirus: Tackling obesity 'must be part of recovery plan' (BBC)
    • As a result of the pandemic, people in Scotland reported more home cooking and consuming more produce, but also drank more alcohol and ate more sugary foods. They believe that lockdown has had more of a negative impact on diets. As a result, they call for government intervention to increase the availability of reasonably priced, healthy food.
  • #SeasonalVeg campaign urges shoppers to support local food during COVID-19 pandemic (Food Navigator)
    • Experts in government, private, and non-profit sectors are launching a campaign to encourage consumption of seasonal vegetables in order to support farmers, reduce food waste, increase childhood vegetable consumption, and increase immune function.
  • Study explains how a fat cell's immune response makes obesity worse (Times of India)
    • A recent study showed that fat cells produce an inflammatory molecule which creates constant inflammation and alters cell metabolism. As this may decrease immunity, it is extremely important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and obesity.                                                                                                         
  • Obesity and coronavirus: how can a higher BMI increase your risk? (The Guardian)
    • This article describes the high obesity rates in Britain and how this may be correlated with high mortality rates from COVID-19. The author quotes several the theories of several experts (including John Wildling!) to explain why people with obesity may suffer more severe disease than those without. She also discusses the non-profit and professional response to these risks, from the WOF policy dossier to an open letter from the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society. Finally, improving access to obesity treatment, providing more exercise opportunities, and encouraging better nutrition are suggested.
  • Who Is Most Likely to Die From the Coronavirus? (New York Times)
    • Inequity in mortality rates from COVID-19 reflects inequity in noncommunicable diseases, including obesity. Lower-income groups are much more likely to have chronic conditions due to lack of recreational space, fewer grocery stores in their neighborhoods, and greater exposure to pollution. Systemic racism explains why people of color are more likely to be low income. This article calls for the implementation of several policies to reduce inequity in health.
  • Reducing obesity and improving health during the COVID-19 pandemic (Open Access Government)
    • As obesity is a major but partially  modifiable risk factor for COVID-19, advocacy groups Action on Sugar and Action on Salt have developed an anti-obesity plan based on a 2019 report from the Chief Medical Officer. The plan includes limiting food advertising, introducing labelling rules, and developing an independent organization to monitor food companies.
  • Coronavirus – Africa: Climate Change and COVID-19 Impact Agriculture and Youth Mobility Across West and Central Africa (CNBC Africa)
    • The agricultural sector is a vital source of food and jobs for those in West Africa. Unfortunately, urbanization, soil degradation, climate change, and COVID-19 have all contributed to job losses and made farming untenable for some. Agroecology- using ecological and social sciences to improve farming practices- is needed to preserve the sector.