Coronavirus Chronicles — It Loves Kids Just the Way They Are

We have been hearing more and more about the strange affinity the coronavirus has for fat; and not just for patients afflicted by obesity and its co-morbidities, but for actual fat tissue stored in the body.

At the Jackson Laboratory (JAX) in Maine, scientific director Nadia Rosenthal has been exploring these relationships with the help of small mammals and the COVID Diversity Mouse Initiative. They study lab mice of eight different inbred strains who, as it turns out, each show a diverse set of responses to SARS-COV-2 infection. Vivien Marx reported,

In some strains, only the males get sick; in another only the females do. [I]n one mouse strain, “one guy just walked away, gained weight” says Rosenthal, not unlike an asymptomatic human. Some animals dropped weight but bounced back, whereas others dropped weight and died.

Last April, when that was news, the researchers have barely begun to analyze the data. Their findings might point the way to some clarity about why different kinds of humans react to the virus in so many puzzling ways. Sadly, nothing further has been published yet.

Easier to prevent than treat

Soon afterward, journalist Sumathi Reddy spoke with various pediatricians whose office visits had increased during a relative lull in the pandemic. They found alarming weight gains in children who had not been seen for a while. Not only were the pounds piling on, but there was more high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol, and worsening fatty liver disease, and cases where pre-diabetes had graduated to full-fledged Type 2 diabetes.

At Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, hundreds of new kids were signing up for the healthy weight program, and first-time appointments were being made two or three months out. The biggest increase in obesity was among the 5 – to 9-year-olds. In the nation’s capital, kids who had been in the 10th or 20th Body Mass Index percentile were coming back in the 70-th or 80th percentile.

Doctors blamed too much snacking and too many disrupted routines. Children’s patterns of eating, activity, learning, and sleep had all been disrupted. Their access to rec centers, playgrounds and parks had been restricted. In some cases, parents had to be away at work too much for good home management. In other cases, parents were sick or deceased.

And of course, the effect of COVID-19 is not always exercised first on adults and then reflected onto children. No, kids catch it too — even healthy kids. Some young humans catch it and nobody knows, because they are asymptomatic and not routinely tested.

Doctors were saying things like, “We never saw this last year,” harking back to the innocent early days of the pandemic in 2020, when some people were even still holding onto the belief that children do not catch it at all. But they do — or rather, it catches them, enthusiastically. The virus does not scold or fat-shame an overweight boy or girl. If the virus had eyes, its eyes would light up at the sight of a chubby child, and without waiting for an invitation, it would climb aboard.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Scientists set out to connect the dots on long COVID,”, 04/28/21
Source: “Kids’ Weight Gain in the Pandemic Is Alarming Doctors,”, 05/10/21
Source: “Eric Feigl-Ding,”, 08/12/21
Image by Michael Coghlan/CC BY-SA 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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