Coronavirus Chronicles — The Mutual Aid Pact Between Obesity and COVID-19

To the novel coronavirus, an obese human looks like a sweet treat. The virus, whose formal name is SARS-CoV-2, likes to hang out with fat cells. A person with a lot of them is ripe for invasion.

As a bonus, if that obese human is hospitalized, their bulk is much more difficult for medical staff to cope with in such matters as a transfer from the gurney to bed, or positioning for X-rays and other procedures. In a bulky patient, significant structures and landmarks are harder to locate, impeding many sorts of medical intervention. To aid breathing, a human does better if placed in a prone position, which is a challenge when a sizable belly is in the way.

Thanks to body fat, the disease can score a lot more points. If the patient gets well enough to be discharged home, obesity will impede any amount of healthful movement, so for the ambitious virus, additional projects like blood clot formation are more easily accomplished. The virus has every reason to embrace obesity as the optimal human condition for its purposes. And of course, the harmful alliance between the disease and unhealthy body weight works both ways.

Scratching each other’s backs

To the ever-present threat of obesity, the virus is a willing accomplice. When it comes to piling on the pounds, a person suffering from the effects of COVID-19 is a sitting duck. Even after what is officially deemed recovery, that human may feel lousy for months.

One frequently mentioned long-term effect is chronic fatigue. Another often-used expression is “exercise intolerance,” an overall decreased capacity for exertion, combined with a feeling of fragility. This can have many contributory elements including joint pain, chest pain, shortness of breath, runaway heartbeat, headache, dizziness, loss of feeling in the limbs, muscle atrophy, sores on the feet, light sensitivity, weakness, and even paralysis.

Everything hurts, and different organs and body parts hurt on different days. The uncertainty is debilitating, as is the teasing, non-linear nature of what is said to be recovery. Each presumed step toward wellness turns out to be a false start, followed by a relapse, or worse yet, an entirely fresh hell where a new symptom shows up.

The pattern is stressful, repeatedly discouraging, and always anxiety-producing. Maybe a caregiver suspects malingering. Maybe family members, friends, and medical personnel simply fail to grasp the victim’s certainty about the overwhelming impossibility of trying to improve, or even of believing that improvement is possible.

The psychological components are awful. There’s the inability to concentrate, the brain fog, the confusion, the depression, the PTSD. A person in this condition is unlikely to do healthful things like get even a minimal amount of exercise, or go outside to absorb some Vitamin D-producing sun rays. (Most COVID-19 sufferers are severely deficient.)

This individual does not feel like standing around in a kitchen peeling vegetables, or stirring a nutrient-packed soup. Everything is too much, except giving in to the temptation to not even try. Disrupted sleep can cultivate eating disorders, and the meal of choice is, of course, comfort food.

These examples of how obesity and the virus are in league against humans were drawn from the following sources:

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Images by N G/CC BY-ND 2.0; Jeff Stevens/CC BY 2.0; Scott Maxwell/CC BY-SA 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

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:

Presentations

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.

Food & Health Resources