Coronavirus Chronicles — Obesity and COVID-19, Deep Dives

All along, researchers and theorists have taken deep dives into various aspects of the pandemic. One of these specialized realms is the relationship between COVID-19 and obesity.

In the early days, the tendency of COVID patients to be obese was noticed and remarked upon, and this coincidence soon graduated from the anecdotal stage, to be studied with the rigor appropriate to a scientific query. In August of 2020, Obesity Reviews published what is described as “the first meta-analysis of its kind,” based on data gathered from very close to 400,000 patients. According to the study,

They found that people with obesity who contracted SARS-CoV-2 were 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to land in the hospital, 74% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, and 48% more likely to die.

Why? Because obesity often includes chronic inflammation, reduced immunity, metabolic syndrome, and sticky, clotty blood. Abdominal fat pushes on the diaphragm and impedes lung airflow. A lot of different systems are influenced by excess body fat, and also by COVID. In addition, there seems to be a whole range of auxiliary reasons that are not physical. We have seen, for instance, how the consciousness of stigma often causes obese people to keep their distance from doctors.

In November of 2020, for, Meredith Wadman quoted the University of Vermont’s Dr. Anne Dixon:

It’s not until more recently that we’ve realized the devastating impact of obesity, particularly in younger people.

The writer explained how the link between obesity and COVID…

[…] has come into sharper focus as large new population studies have cemented the association and demonstrated that even people who are merely overweight are at higher risk.

As luck would have it, 32% of Americans are overweight. And what about the rest, the folks whose weight stays within normal limits? The writer also explains how the disease can “infiltrate the organs where immune cells are produced and stored.” This should put an end to the smugness of critics who say “only obese people get Covid.” We all have fat cells.

To make matters worse, fat cells exert a bad influence on the cells that protect immunity. Apparently, fat cells are consistent with the presence of fewer T-cells, while the T-cells the victim does retain are less able to destroy virus-infected cells. Fat cells secrete cytokines, the messengers that trigger inflammation that fights invasion. But the body can overreact and fight itself rather than the invaders, which could explain many COVID-related problems.

So, fat helps COVID, and COVID returns the favor by helping fat. The writer also quotes Patty Nece of the Obesity Action Coalition, who had lost 100 pounds before the pandemic came along and caused enough stress eating to make her regain 30 pounds. Another all-around disadvantage is that the required studies of helpful drug efficacy rarely include obese subjects in their trials. There is a further obstacle to protecting the young. What we are particularly interested in here, COVID in its extended form (PASC), has mainly been studied in adult patients, not children.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why COVID-19 is more deadly in people with obesity—even if they’re young,”, 09/08/20
Image by Mike Licht/CC BY-SA 2.0

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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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