While we’re on the subject of the killer consequences of obesity, here’s another one the entire world should be paying attention to: A body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 has also emerged as one of the biggest risk factors behind COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Now, you probably could have guessed that I’d find a way to tie obesity to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But I’m happy to report that this time, I didn’t have to be the first one to say it…
Riskier than heart and lung disease
Since this pandemic’s earliest beginnings, scientists have been analyzing COVID-19 statistics to gain a greater understanding of why it hits certain populations differently. So far, age has consistently been the most significant risk factor for more severe illness.
But the next biggest factor after age? Well, it turns out that this honor goes to obesity.
That’s the conclusion of a recent NYU study—one of the largest of its kind to examine risk factors behind COVID-19 hospitalizations. And it found that obesity has a greater influence on the outcome of coronavirus infections than any other chronic condition—including heart or lung disease.
Now, age is still the strongest risk factor for hospitalization. But since the beginning, we’ve been hearing that people with pre-existing conditions should be more cautious. And yet somehow, obesity was never mentioned—even though it appears to be the most dangerous “pre-existing condition” you can have.
Granted, this study is brand new—and it hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. But considering that these researchers looked at over 4,000 patients, I’m inclined to take the results at face value.
And personally, I can’t see how it would come as a surprise to anyone. Obesity has been exposed as the root cause of various illnesses. Yet, for some reason, we just don’t want to admit it… much less actually do something about it.
And that’s a real shame. Because this pandemic is just the latest example of people dying as a result of our inaction.
Beware the “Quarantine 15”
There are a number of reasons why COVID-19 has been able to get the foothold it has so quickly.
Globally, the aging population is the highest it’s ever been across virtually all countries. We’re also dealing with unprecedented rates of heart and lung disease and diabetes. Not to mention an ever-growing population of immunocompromised patients.
All of these comorbidities heighten the risk of severe infection and death from COVID-19. But I firmly believe that if we weren’t such an overweight and unhealthy nation, the United States could have stemmed this pandemic a lot more easily.
At this point, obese and overweight Americans make up almost half the country. That’s 150 million people or so! As I write this, we now have about 650,000 cases of COVID-19 that we know about… and that number is rising by the day.
Let’s also keep in mind that U.S. obesity rates are much higher than some affected countries, including South Korea and China. So if our outcomes—both health-related and economic—end up being worse, it’s really no wonder why.
We know obesity increases inflammation levels significantly. We also know that inflammation is a key factor in COVID-19. And more specifically, that hyperinflammatory conditions make infections harder to treat.
When you think about it, why wouldn’t a high BMI influence how a patient exposed to this novel virus fares?
Now, just imagine for a moment how different things could have been if we had actually treated obesity like the crisis it is, rather than handing Big Food, Big Soda, and Big Agribusiness the keys to the country?
Sadly, we’ll never know. But with stay-at-home orders keeping people socially isolated and confined to their homes and couches, the “Quarantine 15” may very well become a real phenomenon. And it will only serve as fuel for this pandemic’s fire.
So please, do yourself and the entire healthcare community a favor. Stop giving yourself permission to stress eat in front of the television… and take this time to focus on eating healthy, losing weight, and exercising more.
P.S. Throughout my career, I’ve helped thousands upon thousands of people lose weight (and keep it off). And I often explain how right here in my Reality Health Check e-letter, as well as my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives. (A quick search in the archives will turn up various articles.) So if you haven’t already become a subscriber, there’s no better time to sign up. Click here now!
“Obesity One of the Biggest Risk Factors in COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Study Suggests.” Newsweek, 04/14/2020. (newsweek.com/obesity-covid-19-risk-coronavirus-hospitalization-1497791)