Major Risk Factor for Severe COVID-19 Disease Outcomes
The month of March, 2021 is almost gone and with it the 3rd wave of COVID-19 rages on, without any signs of slowing down soon! There is, however, some hope with new vaccines now available. However, even with the availability of these experimental vaccines which have been brought to market in unprecedented record time, due to the emergency nature of the pandemic, it is increasingly clear that, there is need to do more in addressing underlying risk factors as part of the interventions to reduce the most severe outcome; the outcome of death.
Epidemiological evidence shows that those who are likely to succumb to Covid-19 are older persons, mostly male, with pre-existing chronic diseases, also referred to as non-communicable diseases (NCDs): These include, diabetes(whose main risk factor is unhealthy diets and physical inactivity), cardiovascular diseases (with blood pressure as the main risk factor), chronic chest diseases; asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease-COPD ( with tobacco smoking and air pollution as the main risk factors) and cancers, with a broad range of risk factors, including toxic foods and other environmental toxins.(refer to previous blog articles)
Emerging evidence suggests that one key modifiable risk factor, previously not considered, is obesity. Recent scientific evidence has demonstrated a high correlation between obesity and more severe outcomes, including a higher likelihood of dying, from COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control(CDC) in this month’s publication(March, 2021) identifies obesity: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7010e4.htm ,titled Body Mass Index and risk of COVID-19 related hospital admissions, intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation and death, March 2020 – December,2020.
From the article summary; “…Obesity* is a recognized risk factor for severe COVID-19 (1,2), possibly related to chronic inflammation that disrupts immune and thrombogenic responses to pathogens (3) as well as to impaired lung function from excess weight.”
A leading health advocate and nutrition policy advisor, Marion Nestle, in Food Politics, makes reference to the CDC article and recommends a multidisciplinary approach to addressing the increasing burden of obesity: To quote her; “I was struck by headlines last week stating that a CDC study found that 78% of people hospitalized with Covid-19 were overweight or obese.”
She identifies poverty, inequity, inadequate education, unemployment, limited access to healthcare and of course, poor diets, as the direct and indirect causes of overweight and obesity. https://www.foodpolitics.com/2021/03/24297/
The author of this article, Dr. Peter Mokaya, agrees that obesity is a modifiable risk factor which is within the control of those affected and can be addressed through dietary and behavioral changes that include consuming healthier foods, but even more so, safer, diverse, local and organic, agro-ecologically grown foods, without use of toxic agrochemicals Why? Because the residues of these toxic agrochemicals when consumed harm the gut microbiota (useful bacteria and other microorganisms) and create epithelial cell joint abnormal permeability aka “leaky gut”, a major cause of obesity and inflammation, while concurrently weakening the immune system and increasing vulnerability to COVID-19.
What is the way forward in addressing obesity? Have a listen to this short video by the author of this article, Dr. Peter Mokaya: He articulates the nutritional and epidemiological advantages of consuming safe and diverse, local, organic foods as part of the supportive package of preventive care to reduce the risk of infection and the severity of COVID-19 disease.
TEN COMMON FACTS ABOUT OBESITY
•Over 300,000 deaths in the U.S. a year are attributed to obesity. Obesity is second only to smoking as a cause of premature death in the United States.
•Obesity is known to be a major risk factor for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It also may determine the rate of breast cancer cell growth and tumor size.
•Even fat-free food can be rich in sugar. In many cases, manufacturers will replace fat calories with sugar calories so the food remains desirable to the palate.
•Obesity can strain muscles in the pelvic area, which can weaken muscles, contributing to vaginal prolapse.
•Child safety seat manufacturers have begun to make bigger models after a recent study showed that over 250,000 U.S. children age 6 and under are too fat to use the standard models.
• According to an online survey by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, nearly half of the 4,000 people surveyed reported that they would give up a year of their life rather than be fat.
•In 2000, airlines spent $275 million on 350 million additional gallons of fuel to compensate for the additional weight of their passengers.
•An average American eats over 100 lbs. of sugar per year
•One hundred years ago, the average person ate less than 10 pounds of sugar per year. Today, the average person in the U.S. eats over 100 pounds per year. Currently, sugar intake represents 50% of a person’s carbohydrate intake for the day. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 10% of a person’s diet should come from sugar.
• As of 2006, there were more people in the world who are overweight than malnourished.
• At least 2.8 million people die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Although once associated with high-income countries, obesity is also becoming prevalent in low and middle-income countries.
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Dr. Peter Mokaya is the Director/CEO of Organic Consumers Alliance, Kenya.