Closeup of back of an obese elderly woman

Obesity is a condition that can compromise health in several aspects, being recognised as a risk factor for chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, insulin
resistance, stroke and cardiovascular diseases – to name just a few examples. Now, in the context of Covid-19, obesity takes on a new role as a “villain”. Overweight people who are infected with the new coronavirus may have an increased severity of the disease.

Studies have been published in scientific journals such as “Obesity” pointing out that there is a “high frequency of obesity among patients who are under care in intensive care units (ICUs). Obesity plays an important role in the pathogenesis of COVID-19 infection –
impacting the immune system’s defense, which can lead to conditions such as severe acute respiratory syndrome.

In patients under the age of 60 years, it is a risk factor for hospitalization. Although little data is available on BMI (Body Mass Index) for patients with COVID-19 infection, the role of obesity in the epidemic should not be ignored.

By analogy with other respiratory infections, obesity can play an important role in the transmission of COVID-19. For example, in the case of influenza A, obesity increases the duration of the spread of the virus; obese symptomatic patients release 42% more virus than
adults who are not obese. In addition, the increase in inflammatory cytokines associated with obesity may contribute to the increase in morbidity associated with obesity in COVID-19
Another factor can also contribute to the increased risk of COVID-19 among obese patients.
Adipose tissue can serve as a reservoir of human adenovirus Ad-36, influenza A virus, HIV, cytomegalovirus, Trypanosoma gondii and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. By analogy, COVID19 can also infect adipose tissue and then spread to other organs, aggravating the case. As obesity has been shown to increase vulnerability to infections, it may be a risk factor for COVID-19-related mortality.

And what to do in the face of this realization, that obesity puts the person at risk, is what will make the difference in your life. The answer: look after yourself. How? What about starting by changing certain behaviours – like your food choice? Researchers at Indiana University signal that “until new advances appear, we must
remember that modifiable lifestyle factors, such as diet and physical activity, should not be marginalized”, that is, while we do not find a vaccine or even a therapy that proves to be effective, we should use what we already know: our behaviour can impact our immune system and the health of our organism.
Remember: there is no pill, not even a magic formula – it is a set of factors that we can use to protect ourselves and reduce the risk of complications if we get covid-19.

Christina Patuzzo Helal