Coronavirus Chronicles — COVID-19 and Obesity Both Keep Bad Company

Yes, we’re still talking about the ways in which, like a couple of hostile juvenile delinquents, obesity and COVID-19 are partners in crime against humanity. As we know, the Centers for Disease Control have identified obesity as “one of several underlying conditions that increases risk of severe illness from COVID-19 among people of any age.”

It also became clear early on, that Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people have higher rates of infection and higher death rates, partly attributable to obesity being widespread among those populations. This is just one of the many ways in which the two crises intersect and influence each other for the worse.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation notes,

To date, emergency relief measures in response to COVID-19 have increased support for nutrition assistance programs and allowed more flexibility to help prevent hunger and extend resources to those in need. But there is much more work to be done.

The Foundation has suggestions, most of which concern the SNAP program: raise the benefit level, remove the three-month limit for adults, stop the planned changes the would remove four million people from the program.

In places online where Americans meet to discuss their current problems, many people mention the appeal of low-quality, highly-processed foods when staying at home is about the only thing a person can do. The threat of catching the virus keeps sensible people sheltering in place, which is the perfect setting for junk-food orgies. Sadly, much of this pseudo-food is “affordable.”

It’s false economizing, of course, because the end result of a careless diet is physical malfunction, and obesity definitely comes under that heading. Even more dangerous, the emotions are involved, and when that happens, all bets are off. This, of course, is not new. In remembering her impoverished childhood, Shannon Ashley wrote,

Clearly, a lot of junk food is cheap! So for us, food was more of a love language than fuel, a coping mechanism even…

How much more true is this now, in a time when unemployed parents, stuck with their kids at home all the time, do not have much to give them besides a bag of chips or a package of cookies?

In a piece called “The Dangerous Link Between Coronavirus and Obesity,” Dr. Rami Bailony emphasized how, all around the world, in numerous studies, “obesity has been found to be a leading risk factor for mortality and morbidity from Covid-19.” He wrote:

Our world is facing two pandemics right now. The acute one, Covid-19, is swift and relentless — and it’s disproportionately preying upon people affected by an even larger, more-enduring pandemic: obesity. Obesity is a leading risk factor in mortality and morbidity from Covid-19… This speaks to a much larger deficiency within our society and our health care system today: the stubborn refusal to recognize and treat obesity as the chronic, deadly disease that it is.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “State of Childhood Obesity — Prioritizing Children’s Health During the Pandemic,”, October 2020
Source: “How The F**k Does A Person Get To Be 400 Pounds?,”, 02/27/19
Source: “The Dangerous Link Between Coronavirus and Obesity,”, 04/28/20
Images by Shan Jeniah Burton and Smabs Sputzer/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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