Coronavirus Chronicles — With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Yes, of course this topic has been mentioned here before. Obesity and the novel coronavirus are besties. They seem to have linked their pinky fingers together and made some kind of “ride or die” loyalty pledge — except, in this, case, the dying is being done by humans.

So let’s catch up. Dr. William Dietz is the bearer of several impressive credentials, including Director of the STOP Obesity Alliance, and he told journalist Kim Doleatto:

In a study of more than 4,000 New York City COVID-19 patients, even among COVID-19 patients younger than 60, those with obesity were twice as likely to be hospitalized and 1.8 times more likely to need critical care.

The wrinkle in this particular piece of news, though, is another thing that has been mentioned frequently by Childhood Obesity News. Obesity is tightly linked with food insecurity.

Yes, this may sound strange. If people do not have enough to eat, how do they turn out fat? Somehow, it happens. Dr. Dietz also alerted the reporter that…

In a 12-state study of 66,553 adults, those who were food insecure had 32% greater odds of having obesity compared with those who were food secure.

It is almost too obvious to need stating, but in an economy where millions are jobless and a landscape where cars line up for miles to receive the sustenance offered by food banks, the heavy thumb of COVID-19 has once more sneakily pressed on the scales of justice. Obviously, if the pandemic did not exist, food insecurity would not be nearly the huge problem it is at this time.

Yes, sleep matters

Word comes from Ireland of another way in which the disease makes obesity worse. According to the health agency Safefood, 43% of the children surveyed are going to bed later, while a similar number are sleeping later in the morning. Not at all surprisingly, decreased physical activity plus more screen time are two factors that join forces in a recipe for weight gain.

As often happens, disrupted sleep correlates with increased junk food consumption. Empty calories are calories that nobody needs, but there is no stopping them when a society is in semi-emergency mode for weeks and months on end.

Unfortunately, this is not a supposition or a guess. Journalist Conor Pope notes,

[A]s a direct result of children experiencing changes in their sleep routine, 49 per cent are eating more unhealthy snacks or treats, 54 per cent are less active and 67 per cent are engaging in more screen-time…

Consequently, the government is urging parents to get children’s bedtimes “back on track.” But apparently they don’t quite feel up to the job, as it was difficult enough in pre-pandemic times to achieve this. Of all the parents surveyed, 60% have “expressed concern” about how to successfully reinstate healthier routines.

But it must be done. Pope quotes nutrition specialist Dr. Marian O’Reilly:

Sleep influences appetite hormones and being up for longer means there are more opportunities to eat, which can impact on their weight. Many parents have told us that they have found sleep, snacking, managing treat foods and other healthy behaviors difficult over recent months. A good sleep routine is the key to unlocking these challenges.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Childhood obesity and COVID-19 can be a dangerous mix,”, 07/27/20
Source: “More junk food for children as Covid disrupts sleep patterns,”, 08/19/20
Image by chris-rice/CC BY 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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