Coronavirus Chronicles — The Grim Twins Have Tricks Up Their Sleeves

What we have seen so far should be enough, in any reasonable universe. But we have barely scratched the surface of the many bad outcomes caused by the partnership between obesity and the coronavirus. A lot of things can go wrong, other than direct illness, whether it is seemingly brief and mild, or drags out into “long covid,” or PASC.

We have been looking at the many indirect effects that pandemic restrictions have on people’s ability to combat obesity. Among other things, programs, meetings, and training have had to be canceled or switched to online, where a lot of people are unable to participate because of technological limitations at their end. Subjects of ongoing studies might need in-person interactions, such as blood draws, causing some to drop out.

Disruptions to the educational system, and the absence of organized sports and physical education programs, lead to obesity. Kids no longer receiving school meals are undernourished or malnourished, and both of those conditions can end up, sooner or later, turning into an obesity situation. Feeding programs can help in picking up the slack, but they can’t go all the way. A piece titled “What does junk food have to do with COVID-19 deaths?” says,

The food choices we make every day have a profound long-term impact on virtually every aspect of our well-being. And, as medical professionals track the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear just how much that matters in times like these.

Eating disorders specialist Crystal Karges has outlined the numerous possibilities for the development of new eating disorders resulting not from coronavirus itself, but from the culture forced on us by the pandemic. Food insecurity can nudge people into aberrant behavior like stealing and/or hiding food. They might be inspired to eat rapidly over a short period of time, or binge, when they never displayed such behavior in the past. They might eat until they vomit, or develop rigid and excessive anxiety surrounding food. They might become, Karges says, “upset or emotional if food is limited, taken away or if forced to share with others.”

Writer Kelsey Miller harks back to the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, expressing dark expectations about food insecurity during the pandemic:

It demonstrates the primal wound of food deprivation and the scar it leaves on our psyches. Perhaps the most profound finding of this study is not the dramatic effects of hunger, but the fact that these effects are universal and timeless — and nothing can inoculate against them.

But worse, some researchers fear that, whether in experimental settings or in real-life disasters, the long-term effects of starvation on the descendants of survivors could be even more severe than on the starved individuals themselves. In terms of future victims of eating disorders and obesity, the epigenetic consequences could loom very large.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Starvation, Trauma, and Food Hoarding,”, 05/07/15
Source: “What does junk food have to do with COVID-19 deaths?,”, 04/28/20
Source: “What a 1944 Starvation Experiment Reveals About 2020 Food Insecurity,”, 04/29/20
Images by Robert Kash and Gordon Milligan/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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