Even with mild COVID, obesity can mean worse symptoms

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An expert not involved in the study, Dr. Nicholas Kman, pointed out that even vaccinated patients can get a mild case of COVID-19.

“We also know that if the immune system is weakened, such as when we are severely obese, we won’t respond as well to the vaccine,” said Kman, an ambulance doctor at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

“Because of this, it is important for patients with risk factors such as older age and obesity to get the booster dose when it is their turn,” he said. “The best that an unvaccinated patient, with or without risk factors, can do is get the vaccine and then work on those healthy lifestyle changes.”

Dr. David Katz is president of the True Health Initiative, which promotes healthy living as the best way to prevent disease. He said COVID-19 will target select groups throughout the pandemic.

“Even before a pandemic was declared, data from China and South Korea showed that SARS-CoV-2 is not a uniform threat,” said Katz, who was not involved in the study.

Advanced age and chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and obesity, are associated with an increased risk of serious infections, Katz said. This pattern continued as COVID-19 spread around the world, leading to marked differences in hospital stays and deaths between populations.

This paper expands that view of the variable risk for worse outcomes to include those with milder disease, Katz said.

“It is also a reminder that the slow-motion pandemics of obesity and chronic disease have made the acute COVID pandemic far worse than it needs to be, both among hospitalized patients and those with milder illness,” he said.

“These results add to the already compelling case for addressing the acute pandemic threat by doing much more to promote general health, including healthy weight, for the population at large,” said Katz.

The report was published in the journal on October 20 Flu and other respiratory viruses.

More information

For more information on COVID-19 and obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Pia Pannaraj, MD, MPH, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist, Los Angeles Children’s Hospital; David Katz, MD, MPH, President, True Health Initiative; Nicholas Kman, MD, ambulance doctor, Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, Columbus; Flu and other respiratory viruses, October 20, 2021

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