Coronavirus Chronicles — Body Weight and Body Fat

Obesity and the coronavirus make things easier for each other, and harder for the rest of us. The two harmful conditions could not keep their relationship discreet forever. More and more experts are noticing how relentlessly they work together. It is very clear, they are friends with benefits only for each other, and pain for everybody else.

Forty percent of Americans are said to be obese. Obese people are more apt to catch COVID-19, more likely to get very sick, and more likely to die from it. In countries where most of the adults are overweight, the death rate is 10 times higher than in slimmer countries. The adults who face these odds are yesterday’s obese children. Today’s obese children are tomorrow’s obese adults.

Speaking of which, we are told by the American Medical Association that “Overweight or obesity increased among 5- through 11-year-olds from 36.2% to 45.7% during the pandemic.” One school of thought holds that the government has been wrong to close parks, gyms, schools, and other locations where people should be able to exercise and burn calories to avoid obesity. There seems to be some room for nuance. Why not keep a park open, if people stay far away from each other? On the other hand, a gym could so easily be the perfect environment for spreading COVID.


Still, there is hope. According to Steven Nissen, M.D., senior author of a paper explaining recent Cleveland Clinic research,

Striking findings from the current study support the reversibility of the health consequences of obesity in the patients with COVID-19. This study suggests that an emphasis on weight loss as a public health strategy can improve outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and future outbreaks or related infectious diseases.

Specifically, a group of obese patients who had already lost weight through bariatric surgery had a 60% lower risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications. So yes, excessive body weight is a modifiable risk factor. But surgery is expensive, with a long and arduous qualifying process. Most people with the ability to lose weight through bariatric surgery have probably already tried it, or at least looked into it. When it comes to 40% of the population, surgical intervention is not a likely solution.

What else is there? One Boston obesity clinic’s waiting list has more than 1,000 names on it, most of them added since the pandemic began. A lot of people have, in the words of Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, “really made that connection between obesity and COVID and the need for them to get appropriate care.” Where and how do they procure such care? Those are difficult questions.

News about news

Recently a news network tweeted something about the proven link between obesity and COVID-19, and fellow media experts took the opportunity to get all snarky, pointing out that the “new” studies they cited had actually been around for a while. (August 2020, February 2021, and April 2021). This is the kind of nonsense that adult professionals engage in while millions suffer and die.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Substantial weight loss can reduce risk of severe COVID-19 complications,”, 12/29/21
Source: “Can losing weight help protect you against COVID-19?,”, 01/03/22
Source: “Critics rip CNN over late tweet linking obesity to serious COVID cases, death: ‘Where have you been?’ ‘Thanks for catching up’,” 01/03/22
Image by Nik Anderson/CC BY 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

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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