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5 July, 2020 05:53:09 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 5 July, 2020 05:54:17 PM
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Obesity and Covid-19

Researchers find that people with obesity have a higher level of inflammation in their bodies, which can impede the body's immune response and make it more difficult to fight the coronavirus.
Fahmida Hashem
Obesity and Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges around the world. Apart from the health risks of the coronavirus, we have many other health risks. As time goes by, we are learning more and more about the news disease and it’s now becoming clear that people with non-communicable diseases are more likely to have severe symptoms.

World Health Organization (WHO) has characterized both the Covid-19 outbreak and obesity as ‘epidemic’. We already know that patients with obesity-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, have a higher risk of developing complications if they catch Covid-19.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, of whom 650 million were classed as obese. As time has gone on, it has become increasingly evident that obesity is linked to poorer outcomes for those who are infected with the coronavirus. Obesity has been linked to increased susceptibility to infections. In addition, a very important field of research suggests that various types of viruses utilize fatty tissue as a reservoir, including adenovirus Ad-36, influenza A virus as well as HIV. In this sense, the Covid-19 tissue and cellular localization may be correlated to fatty tissue. In another study in 30 people with Covid-19 showed that patients with BMI 27.0±2.5 exhibit the disease with more severe symptoms as compared to patients with BMI 22.0±1.3.Emerging data show BMI plays a role in who needs intensive care and who survives.

Stored fat leads to high levels of inflammation, which can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, and it’s possible that fat stored around the middle of the body could make the lungs less efficient in the face of a viral infection. But the evidence on obesity and Covid-19 is new and still emerging and the picture will become clearer in the coming days and weeks.

Researchers also know people with obesity have a higher level of inflammation in their bodies, which can impede the body's immune response and make it more difficult to fight coronavirus. When the virus comes and infects, then this low-grade inflammation seems to become more pronounced. That can contribute to this very strong immune response that's seen in Covid-19. Serious outcomes for Covid-19 can now be added to the long list of other diseases and complications including cardiovascular disease and asthma that are a consequence of obesity.

Patients with obesity often have respiratory dysfunction; obesity is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease, co-morbidities that are considered to be result in increased vulnerability to pneumonia-associated organ failures. Measurement of anthropometric characteristics and metabolic parameters is crucial to better estimate the risk of complications in patients with Covid-19.

Scientists have discovered that an enzyme called ACE2, present in cells, is the main way for the virus to enter the body. Higher levels of this molecule are thought to be found in adipose tissue, or fatty tissue, which people who are obese have more of, under the skin and around their organs. Top of everything else, the ability of the body to fight off the virus - known as the immune response - is not as good in people who are obese. That’s due to inflammation driven by immune cells called macrophages which invade our fat tissue. They interfere with how our cells respond to infection. According to scientists, this can lead to a 'cytokine storm' - a potentially life-threatening over-reaction of the body's immune system which causes inflammation and serious harm.

Given our health systems are already stretched with obesity-related illnesses, there is no better time than now, to tell the public that the time to change their diet is now. Covid-19 has really put a highlight on this because it's so sudden and so intense and so unexpected. But it does shine a light on the importance of obesity prevention at a public health level.

No one is arguing that slim, fit people are safe because obesity is not something that can be changed overnight. It’s not a time to panic about your weight, but it could be a good time to concentrate on healthier choices. These restrictions can be challenging and might lead to reduced physical activity and eating for comfort or to ease boredom, potentially resulting in weight gain. The best way is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. Otherwise, try to eat slowly and avoid situations where you could be tempted to overeat.

A healthy lifestyle will not only lower your risk of disease, but also ensure your immune system is working at its best, which is required more during this time of the pandemic.

The writer is a nutritionist.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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