People of any age with obesity are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19

Obesity and high levels of adipose fat are linked to a weakened immune system, leading to an increased risk of viral infections and an increased risk of complication from a viral infection.

Researchers at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, analyzed published literature on patients with novel coronavirus and found individuals with obesity, defined as a BMI over 30, were more likely to be hospitalized and admitted to the ICU.

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This threat has become especially prevalent in the last few months as decreased daily activities and working from home during the pandemic have not been conducive to maintaining a healthy weight.

“We’re not only at home more and experience more stress due to the pandemic, but we’re also not visiting the grocery store as often, which means the demand for highly processed junk foods and sugary beverages that are less expensive and more shelf-stable has increased,” Popkin said in the university’s release. “These cheap, highly processed foods are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat and laden with highly refined carbohydrates, which all increase the risk of not only excess weight gain but also key noncommunicable diseases.”

As well, obesity has also been shown to cause a decreased responsiveness to some vaccines, including the flue vaccine as well as the H1N1 vaccine. This raises great concern over the effect that obesity will have on the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine, once it is developed and distributed.

The good news is that several studies have shown an increase in immune responsiveness and improvements after weight-loss, following dietary restriction, and exercise.

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