Strong evidence that obesity is a major risk factor in Covid-19 severity and poses an increased risk of death has now been demonstrated across multiple studies around the world. The evidence all points to obesity as the preexisting condition with the largest impact on unfavorable outcomes, across all age groups.
The data is especially striking for younger adults, long thought to be at a much lower risk for serious illness from Covid-19. One NYU Langone study of 3,615 Covid patients under 60 years of age showed that “Patients with a BMI of 30-34 were twice as likely to get admitted to the hospital or to be admitted to acute care. Patients with a BMI of 35 or higher were twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital, and three times as likely to end up in the intensive care unit.”
A CDC study found that of its patients, “89% had at least one underlying condition, with obesity being the most common for those between 18 and 64.” A Chinese study showed that obesity tripled the risk of a severe case versus those of normal weights.
Data from UK hospitalizations is even more stark, showing that obesity and metabolic syndrome are associated with a 10 times increase in death. In an article entitled “Covid 19 and the elephant in the room”, Dr. Aseem Malhotra states it bluntly; “OBESITY, THE REAL KILLER BEHIND COVID”
Data from a set of studies in France recently published in The Lancet looked at the percentage of ICU patients with Covid that were obese versus the percentage of non-Covid ICU patients. It found a clearly higher rate of ICU admissions among obese patients for Covid vs other causes. This research is also anecdotally supported out of the NYC hospital data.
This blog has discussed the Obesity Epidemic many times before, and I’ve started examining some of the causes of it that are easier to control for. It was always clear that obesity & metabolic syndrome are important for far more than NASH, but this pandemic should serve as a clear wake-up call for the tens of millions of obese individuals around the world. We cannot hide from our health behind the well-intentioned shield of the Body Positivity movement. The warnings are now being shouted loud and clear:
I have a friend who once lost a whole bunch of weight by removing two simple things from his diet. Cheese and soda. This was well before the current Paleo diet craze, when sugary drink taxes weren’t even whispered in the most progressive of city councils. It was also well before I knew anything about the liver or the difference between sucrose and fructose in the sugar I consumed. His story always stuck with me, though I never realized why it had worked.
Ever since the untimely death of my mother from NASH, I have spent a lot of time learning about the underlying causes that likely led to her liver failure. Along the way, I had to reexamine a number of misconceptions and prejudicies I’ve had about health and eating. Whether from genetics or pure luck, I’ve been blessed all my life with never having to worry about weight or what I eat. I never put a lot of thought about what I was putting inside my body until i started to read research about how obesity and metabolic syndrome developed, and why we were suddenly facing a worsening crisis over the last 50 years.
What I’ve found has changed my entire view on food & health.
Let’s get something out of the way up front. Dealing with weight issues is an incredibly emotional and sensitive subject, and as a society we should not focus on shaming, shunning, or victimizing the nearly half of the country that is overweight or obese. By creating a societal image of beauty and attractiveness that ostracizes over a hundred million people in the USA alone, we have done ourselves a terrible disservice.
There is a disturbing trend in social health movements to ignore medical realities in favor of mental wellness. That is, to pretend that a medical condition isn’t a threat because to acknowledge it may hurt someones feelings. I’m here to tell you that non-alcoholic steatohepatitis doesn’t care about your feelings; it will kill you all the same. Continue reading “We cannot be PC about our health”→