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Obesity in the age of Covid-19

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There is a group of conditions that when grouped together are called metabolic syndrome. These are type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease.

Obesity causes chronic stress and inflammation leading to the complications of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Even cancer and dementia have been linked to chronic inflammation.

The inflammation is what affects your immune system and makes it dysfunction. The exaggerated immune response is what is associated with the acute respiratory distress syndrome. People who have this complication require ventilation owing to respiratory failure and frequently die.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has identified that if you are 50 or younger, the biggest risk factor for death if you catch Covid-19 is obesity. In Bermuda, 74 per cent of adults are either overweight or obese; therefore, most of our population is at very high risk if they catch Covid-19.

All the conditions associated with metabolic syndrome are linked to poor diet. The increased mortality from Covid-19 if you have these conditions is ten times more than people who are healthy (Nature).

The reports that significantly higher numbers of people of African and Hispanic heritage are dying from Covid-19 may in part be explained by the increased prevalence of these diseases in these groups. I am worried about our Bermuda population.

Aseem Malhotra, a British cardiologist and supporter of the sugar tax in Britain, has been working for years to influence legislation to improve population health.

His article in European Scientist last week is called “Covid-19 and the elephant in the room”. He is calling for Public Health England to not only to encourage people to stop smoking — research from China concluded that smokers were 14 times more likely to get severe disease from Covid-19 — but to “quit ultra-processed food”.

What does this mean?

Ultra-processed foods are packaged foods that are high in unhealthy fats, preservatives, sugar and starch. More than half the calories in the standard American diet are from ultra-processed foods — only one out of every eight adults in the United States is metabolically healthy.

Junk food is everywhere. Advertisers market foods as healthy when they are not! It's easier and quicker to eat takeout and fast food than to cook from scratch, but the toll on your health in the long term is devastating.

The good news is, if you change your diet you can make a difference to your health and disease within a few weeks. Blood pressure and blood sugar levels can improve within 21 days of changing your diet by cutting out sugars and highly processed foods and simple carbohydrates.

You can reduce your need for medications and start losing weight. This means that changing your diet now can help you to be healthier if you come into contact with Covid-19.

If you have questions about Covid-19 call the Bermuda Government Covid-19 helpline at 444-2498, available 9am to 9pm daily. If you are encountering a medical emergency, call 911

• Annabel Fountain, MD, is a Bermudian physician who is board-certified in endocrinology, diabetes and internal medicine. She is the owner and medical director of Fountain Medical Group. Dr Fountain is available for telemedicine appointments during the Covid-19 isolation recommendations. Please call your primary-care physician for a referral or 232-2027 to make an appointment

Cause for concern: 74 per cent of Bermudians adults are overweight
Annabel Fountain, MD, is a Bermudian physician who is board-certified in endocrinology, diabetes and internal medicine. She is the owner and medical director of Fountain Medical Group

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Published April 25, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 25, 2020 at 8:45 am)

Obesity in the age of Covid-19

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