Coronavirus Chronicles — The Clues Add Up

Thanks to the news and especially to social media, plenty of people are now aware of the connection between COVID-19 and obesity. Sadly, for most obese people, it is far too late to take effective action. They either already caught the virus, or carry too many pounds to do anything useful about prevention at this point.

Sure, we can use an official-sounding phrase and call fat a “modifiable risk factor,” but fancy language is of no practical value. It’s not as if a person can just make an executive decision, “Hey, I’m gonna drop 50 pounds,” and magically make it happen. If weight loss were that easy, wouldn’t people — because of the other health hazards associated with overweight, or because of basic human vanity — have slimmed down already?

Where this information really comes in handy is in the realm of childhood obesity. The time to prevent obesity is now, because it looks like the virus is likely to be around for a while. Now is the time to prevent children from becoming the plump, tasty morsels of victimhood that the SARS-CoV-2 organism enjoys so much.

Vitro and vivo

Inevitably, an enormous amount of medical knowledge is couched in Latin which, although people do not actually speak it anymore, is a quite valuable language for the accuracy it makes possible. “In vitro” is an inclusive phrase for reactions that take place within a glass test tube or petri dish or, by extension, at other sites outside the body. “In vivo” refers to a scientific test, experiment, or procedure that takes place within the actual living body of a lab animal or a human.

Inflammation of adipose tissue

The website known as bioRxiv is a “preprint server,” meaning it publishes reports that have not yet been formally peer-reviewed, or printed by one of the venerable journals of record. Nevertheless, scientists and scholars are intensely interested in information that emerges via this route.

Less than three months ago, such a report was introduced by this one-sentence summary:

Our work provides the first in vivo evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in human adipose tissue and describes the associated inflammation.

Even though not yet peer-reviewed or officially, capital-P published, this is big news. It is not just a coincidence, or the product of some over-active imaginations, that obese people catch the coronavirus more easily and suffer more acutely from its depredations. Something is definitely going on. One sign, as the authors state, is that…

[O]besity is a risk factor even in young adults and children who do not have other comorbid conditions.

Other studies had already abundantly demonstrated that coronavirus RNA could be found in victims’ lung, brain, intestine, pancreas, and other types of tissue. But what about body fat? The exciting discovery was:

We harvested adipose tissue from multiple depots in uninfected obese humans for in vitro infection and obtained autopsy specimens of various adipose depots in individuals who died from COVID-19. Our results clearly show SARS-CoV-2 infection in macrophages and adipocytes from multiple adipose depots, with an attendant increase in inflammatory profile.

As the writer of a subsequent commentary phrased it, “These cells act like velcro for COVID-19.” Anti-government theorizers and anti-traditional medicine enthusiasts greeted this news with joy, taking the occasion to print such scolding words as:

Of course, you already know that the authorities have said virtually nothing about dietary and lifestyle interventions, like weight loss, metabolic health and vitamin D status.

This snarky claim is difficult to reconcile with the fact that the eight-year Obama presidency was famous for the First Lady’s efforts to prevent kids from getting fat. At any rate, the new research suggests that within fat tissue, the virus can hide and multiply undetected and unchallenged. To bring the point home, that author quoted Johns Hopkins professor Dr. David Kass:

If you really are very obese, fat is the biggest single organ in your body.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “SARS-CoV-2 infects human adipose tissue and elicits an inflammatory response consistent with severe COVID-19,” bioRxiv.org,10/25/21
Source: “These cells act like velcro for COVID-19,” GrasslandBeef.com, 12/22/21
Image by Jernej Furman/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:

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