Obesity increases vulnerability to Covid-19 infection

Published Jul 29, 2020


DURBAN - The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that more than 53.8%, of South Africa’s adults are overweight or obese; this is particularly concerning as a number of international studies show a link between obesity and serious Covid-19 infection.

A recent study from the United Kingdom, for example, found that 73% of Covid-19 patients in intensive care were either overweight or obese. According to

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, the current evidence was clear, that being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, as well as from many other life-threatening diseases.

"Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health - and may also help protect against the health risks of Covid-19. The case for action on obesity has never been stronger," she said.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a national crackdown on obesity.

The prime minister claimed he was "way overweight" when he got struck down with Covid-19 in April, but that since his recovery he has been "building up my fitness" with a morning jog.

Dr Gert du Toit, a surgeon who practises at the multi-disciplinary metabolic centre at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital said: “Over 90% of deaths from Covid-19 in South Africa are recorded among individuals aged 40 years and older, which is the segment of the general population in which obesity and related comorbidities such as diabetes and hypertension tend to occur.”

The analysis from the UK study showed that adipose tissue - or body fat - could be more susceptible to infection as it contains high levels of an enzyme which the coronavirus can attach itself to. Having excess fat gives the virus more of a chance to gain access to cells in the body.

The Study also suggests that being overweight and so allowing this excess tissue to form has a direct impact on areas including respiratory function, inflammation, blood and immunity - which are crucial in the fight against Covid-19.

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