Coronavirus: obesity and overweight, important risk factors

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it: the COVID-19 epidemic is an international public health emergency. A global pandemic evolving into a global economic crisis, which unfortunately disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations around the world. And among those most affected, those most at risk of severe forms of SARS VOC-2, are those who are overweight or obese.

As we know, the VIDOC-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges around the world. Aside from the health risks posed by the virus itself, the food we eat, the way we work and our level of physical activity have all been altered and impacted in ways that could hardly have been imagined just a few months ago. At the same time, it is now clear that overweight people are much more vulnerable to this coronavirus. At least this is evident from observations made in emergency and intensive care units throughout Europe and around the world.

Similar statistics in many countries

The first statistics from the British Independent National Audit and Research Centre on people treated in intensive care indicate that 73.4 % of the patients admitted were overweight.
Preliminary outcome data for patients who had recovered or died from VIDOC-19 by April 3, 2020, indicated that the recovery rate for obese patients admitted to the intensive care unit was lower. Approximately 42.4 % of patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 were able to return home after successful treatment, compared to 56.4 % of patients with a BMI less than 25. As a reminder, The ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9..

In France, a similar observation is being made. Among the patients admitted to emergency departments for severe forms of the disease, there was a significant proportion of overweight or obese people. You should know that in France, overweight people are part of the populations considered as a priority to access virological diagnostic tests for Covid-19.

Why are overweight or obese people more vulnerable?

Around the world, the most recent reports suggest overweight and obesity as important risk factors. Underlying health problems that can lead to a more serious reaction to SARS VOC infection 2 - a situation that is all the more worrying when you consider that there are nearly 2 billion overweight and obese people in the world. Our western societies are the most exposed to the problem. Given these extremely high rates of obesity around the world, it is possible that the pandemic will have a disproportionate impact on people in these categories. 

Apart from the findings, little is known about this correlation. There are, however, some possible explanations. Fat stored in the body leads to high levels of inflammation, which can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. Also, according to some researchers, it is possible that fat stored in the abdominal area makes the lungs less effective in dealing with a viral infection, and that the fat settles in and clogs the lungs.
Although the explanation is still unclear, it is certain that being overweight exposes one to higher risks.

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Keeping in shape despite confinement

Although the causes of overweight and obesity are multifactorial and cannot be changed overnight, a healthy lifestyle will not only help to reduce excess body fat and the associated risks, but also to improve the immune system.

Unfortunately, the containment measures taken by many countries for crisis management are not really conducive to weight loss. Sports halls are closed and in cities such as Paris, even individual outdoor sports activities are banned between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. This makes it more difficult to stay active while confined to the house. And the temptation to snack is greater.

Moreover, even after the end of the start of confinement on 11 May, the possibility of practising a sporting activity, in a group and in a closed place, is likely to remain reduced. Although it is not impossible to lose weight without being physically activeExercise remains one of the pillars of a healthy lifestyle and an advantage for losing a few pounds. This is the reason why sports coaches and the various players in this field have mobilized massively. Since the beginning of the confinement, sports classes on TV have increased on the different channels. In the same way, many companies have adapted, offering videos, podcasts and online courses (yoga, dance, boxing, cross training, etc.).

Conclusion

The important thing to remember is that as an overweight or obese person, you are much more vulnerable. The World Obesity Federation expects a high percentage of the infected population to have a BMI greater than 25. Given the extremely high rates of obesity around the world, the situation is critical. In addition, obese people who become ill and require intensive care present challenges in their management. In particular, it is more difficult to intubate obese patients, and it may be more difficult to obtain diagnostic imaging (because there are weight limits on imaging machines). Patients are more difficult to position and transport by nurses, etc. Specialized equipment is available, but shortages are very early on in a context of massive contamination.

There are, however, simple and effective behaviours we can adopt to reduce our risk of becoming infected, and of transmitting the virus to others.

Hugo Blanc, Nutritionist

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