Obesity linked to higher risk of complications from COVID-19

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A review of studies on COVID-19 reveals a troubling link between two health crises: the coronavirus and obesity.

From risk of COVID-19 to cure, the odds are against obese people, and new study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill raises concerns over the impact of obesity on efficacy of a future vaccine against COVID-19.

Researchers looked at the available published literature on people infected with the virus and found that obese people (BMI over 30) were at a significantly increased risk of hospitalization (113%), more likely to be admitted to the hospital. intensive care unit (74%). and had a higher risk of death (48%) from the virus.

A team of researchers from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, including lead author Barry Popkin, professor in the Department of Nutrition and member of the Carolina Population Center, collaborated with lead author Meera Shekar, World Bank health and nutrition specialist. specialist, on the article published in Obesity Reviews.

For the article, researchers looked at immunological and biomedical data to provide a detailed overview of the mechanisms and pathways that link obesity with an increased risk of COVID-19 as well as an increased likelihood of developing more serious complications of the disease. virus.

Obesity is already associated with many underlying risk factors for COVID-19, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes heart disease, and chronic kidney and liver disease.

Metabolic changes caused by obesity – like insulin resistance and inflammation – make it difficult for obese people to fight off some infections, a trend that can be seen in other diseases infectious diseases, such as influenza and hepatitis.

During times of infection, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, common in people with hyperglycemia, can impair the function of immune cells.

“All of these factors can influence immune cell metabolism, which determines how bodies respond to pathogens, such as the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus,” says co-author Melinda Beck, professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. “Obese people are also more likely to suffer from physical ailments that make it more difficult to fight this disease, such as sleep apnea, which increases pulmonary hypertension, or a body mass index which increases difficulties in a hospital environment. with intubation. “

Previous work by Beck and others has shown that the influenza vaccine is less effective in obese adults. The same may be true for a future SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, Beck says.

“However, we are not saying that the vaccine will be ineffective in populations with obesity, but rather that obesity should be seen as a modifying factor to consider for vaccine testing,” she said. “Even a less protective vaccine will still provide some level of immunity. ”

About 40% of Americans are obese and the resulting pandemic lockdown has led to a number of conditions that make it more difficult for individuals to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Working from home, limiting social visits and cutting back on daily activities – all in an effort to stop the spread of the virus – means we move less than ever, Popkin says.

The ability to access healthy food has also taken a hit. Economic hardship poses additional risks to those who are already food insecure, making them more vulnerable to conditions that can result from consuming unhealthy food.

“Not only are we no longer at home and under more stress due to the pandemic, but we also don’t visit the grocery store as often, which means the demand for highly processed junk food and cheaper and more sugary drinks. shelves. -stable increased, ”he says. “These inexpensive, highly processed foods are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat and loaded with highly refined carbohydrates, all of which increase not only the risk of excess weight gain, but also major noncommunicable diseases. ”

Popkin, who is part of the Global Food Research Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, says the findings highlight why governments need to tackle the underlying dietary contributors to obesity and implement Strong public health policies proven to reduce obesity at the population level.

Other countries, such as Chile and Mexico, have adopted policies ranging from taxing foods high in sugar to introducing warning labels on packaged foods high in sugar, fat and sodium and restricting the marketing of junk food to children.

“Given the significant threat COVID-19 poses to obese people, healthy food policies can play a supporting – and particularly important – role in mitigating COVID-19-related mortality and morbidity.” , he said.


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More information:
Obesity Reviews (2020). DOI: 10.1111 / rev 13128

Provided by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Citation: Obesity linked to higher risk of complications from COVID-19 (August 26, 2020) retrieved August 26, 2020 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-08-obesity-linked-higher-covid-complications.html

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