Is there a link between obesity and Covid-19?

Published Apr 30, 2020


DURBAN - A statement made on Tuesday by Health Minister Zweli Mhkize highlighting a possible link between obesity and Covid-19 has sparked a new conversation surrounding the pandemic. According to Mkhize, this was an important factor as it is a bitter reality among South Africans.

The Mkhize said that when evaluating the Covid-19 related deaths high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity were all common factors involved.

Is there a link between Covid-19 and obesity?

According to a report by the Center for Disease Control (CDC),

Severe obesity increases the risk of a serious breathing problem called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is a major complication of Covid-19 and can cause difficulties with a doctor’s ability to provide respiratory support for seriously ill patients. People living with severe obesity can have multiple serious chronic diseases and underlying health conditions that can increase the risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

A research report found online which was posted by the Cancer Association of South Africa revealed the statistics on obesity in South Africa. The report authored by Professor Micheal C Herbst stated that the obesity and diabetes levels in South Africa have increased severely since 1940 which was when they first started keeping records.

In the report there was statistics provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February 2018 showed that:

Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.

In 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.

Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

- Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.

- Obesity is preventable.

Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese.

An excerpt from the Fact Sheet on Obesity and Cancer by the Cancer Association of South Africa.

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