We have been looking at the science behind the deadly alliance between obesity and COVID-19. One current worry is that obesity might weaken a vaccine’s potency. But it is not all hard science. Much of the difficulty stems from plain old human nature. Some of this was explained last March in reaction to the study that Childhood Obesity News mentioned in the previous post.
By then it had become clear that obese people were hospitalized and killed by the virus in numbers not just noticeably higher, but significantly higher. A BMI of over 30 was recognized as a serious liability.
Sadly, this legitimate public health concern was seized by victim-blamers and fat-shamers who launched a blizzard of messages and memes on social media. Nobody likes to be made fun of in a public arena, but the worst aspect of this craze is the illogic. The tacit proposition is that obese people only need to realize that they would have a better chance to survive the pandemic if they didn’t carry so many pounds.
Apparently, having experienced this revelation, the obese person is expected to decide to lose X number of pounds, and then go ahead and do it. News flash for the haters: Just like COVID, obesity has always been life-threatening, painful, inconvenient, expensive, and lonely. If escape were that easy, wouldn’t they have done it already?
A paper by Meera Senthilingam quoted the main statistics about how obesity “increases the risk of being admitted to hospital with covid-19 by 113%, of being admitted to intensive care by 74%, and of dying by 48%.” Then she said the part where the world of pediatric medicine perked up its ears:
This is irrespective of age, as being overweight or obese is associated with worse outcomes in younger populations as well.
You’re not fat, you’re fluffy
While chubby kids may be cute, there were already plenty of reasons to try ending childhood obesity. If people had picked up what Michelle Obama was putting down, we might be in a very different situation today. By throwing more cooperation behind her Let’s Move! Project, we could have reduced by millions the number of potential victims. Then, by the time the virus came around, there would not have been so many people, old or young, packed with the excessive fat cells that the virus finds so attractive.
A rare and valuable modifiable factor
Those who want everybody to get well and stay well are particularly frustrated because, vis-à-vis the virus, weight is one of the few things that humans actually can control. Senthilingam’s paper, “Covid-19 has made the obesity epidemic worse, but failed to ignite enough action,” turned out to be ironically titled. While a lot of action has been taken, it has been the wrong kind of action, taken by the wrong parties, for the wrong reasons. She references a report from the NCD Alliance, a group concerned with non-communicable diseases (that would be obesity), saying it listed…
[…] hundreds of ways the food and drink industry has used the pandemic to promote its products and capitalise on the situation — particularly alcohol, sugary drinks, and ultra processed food. This includes food packs and contributions that contain unhealthy products and promote brands…
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Covid-19 has made the obesity epidemic worse, but failed to ignite enough action,” BMJ.com, 03/04/21
Image by Robert Ashworth/CC BY 2.0