CDC COVID-19 Obesity Risk

CDC COVID-19 Obesity Risk
CDC COVID-19 Obesity Risk

I keep an eye on any hot-off-the-press nutrition news. This week, a Bloomberg headline grabbed my attention: CDC Expands Covid Risk Warning to Include Overweight People

The article says that on October 6, the CDC revised their outlook on who “… might be at increased risk”of severe illness from Covid-19. They now include people who fall into one of three weight categories:

  • Overweight, BMI (Body Mass Index) 25 to 29.9.

  • Obesity, BMI 30 to 39.9.

  • Severe Obesity, BMI 40+.

To calculate the body mass index, divide a person’s weight in kilograms (by their height in meters. A normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9, according to the National Institutes of Health website.

How heavy is the average American? Bloomberg puts the overweight number at 32 percent and obesity at 40 percent. In other words, more than 2 out of 3 have a BMI of 25 or more!

MinnPost reports that the 2018 National Health Statistics Report found American men had an average BMI of 29.1. For women, it was at 29.6. As a country, we’re clearly overweight and dangerously close to obesity!

This NutritionFacts video reviews further studies showing that those with a BMI of 28 or more “appear to be at nearly six times the odds of suffering a severe COVID-19 course.”

Why is this exactly? The video continues:

“The excess risk from the excess body fat may arise from greater systemic inflammation, fat covering the heart itself, or the restriction of breathing caused by excessive fatty tissue in the upper body.”

For most of us, the big concern about being overweight is the way subcutaneous fat under our skin makes us look. But we forget about the visceral fat covering our heart and other organs.

Remember the old anti-smoking ads which compared nicotine-stained lungs to healthy pink ones? Looking at side-by-side photos of healthy and fat-covered hearts elicits the same shocked reaction!

It also removes some of the mystery behind why visceral fat raises the risk of a severe Covid-19 infection by a factor of 6.

So what can we do about it?

We can start by following the advice in this recent report from the Metabolism Clinical and Experimental Journal:

“Consuming fresh, fiber-rich whole foods could serve to mitigate some of the overwhelming [pro-inflammatory] immune response which appears to be compounded in patients with COVID-19 who have diabetes and obesity, and must be a central focus included in any clinical recommendations made to patients or healthcare systems during this pandemic.”

Natural fiber is only found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Put simply, they’re telling us that eating fresh, fiber-rich whole plant-based foods limits the body’s reaction to coronavirus. But it also helps reach and maintain a healthy BMI.

This NutritionFacts video presents a Loma Linda University study in which the vegan participants had an average BMI of 21.

For those who are concerned by this latest news out of the CDC, the following steps can be taken:

  1. Check BMI

  2. If BMI is above 25 due to body fat.

  3. Eat exclusively whole, plant-based food.

  4. Watch BMI drop to optimal level.

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