What is the relationship between COVID-19 and OBESITY?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity-related conditions increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The World Health Organization also stated that being overweight and obese are linked to more COVID-19 deaths worldwide than those who are underweight. Here are a few questions and answers to help you understand more of the relationship between COVID-19 and obesity.

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Before we answer this question, let’s first answer – what is obesity? In Asians, the BMI used to determine obesity is lower. Multiple studies have been conducted to come to a BMI per population consensus, but until WHO comes to a definitive conclusion, we can consider the below as an indicator:

Are obese people at a higher risk from COVID-19?

Yes, obese people have a weakened immune response to infections, putting them at a higher risk of COVID-19. As BMI increases, the risk of COVID-19 deaths increases. Generally, obesity is normally affected by lifestyle factors such as poor health choices, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle.

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2. Should obese people have different precautions with COVID-19?

The answer is no. However, obese people should be mindful that they are at a higher risk of developing severe reactions when it comes to COVID-19. Therefore, it is even more important to take general precautions such as wearing masks in public and following the SOP guidelines. Here are some health precautions for people who have obesity.

The first is to control your blood sugar levels because any infection can cause a rise in your blood sugar levels.

In addition, choose food with a low glycemic index like vegetables, brown rice and whole-wheat bread or crackers. You should also take lean protein food like fish, eggs and beans.

Next, stay away from the habit of snacking when you are stressed or binge-watching. This can limit the consumption of foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and fat.

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3. If I choose to have bariatric surgery, will it decrease the risk of getting COVID-19?

Yes, but not immediately. According to Dr. Ben Ng, a specialist in Diabetes and Obesity at Novena Hospital, Singapore, he mentioned: “Obese individuals are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 because of the decreased immune response in their body, diet low in antioxidants and fibre as well as a sedentary lifestyle.” Undergoing bariatric surgery will result in weight loss in 3-6 months. Dato Dr. Tikfu Gee, a Consultant General and Bariatric Surgeon at iHEAL Medical Centre Kuala Lumpur, explained that bariatric surgery can help patients effectively improve or even resolve other health problems simply because it restricts the amount of food intake enabling patients to shed a whopping 80-90% of their excess weight and to keep it that way.

In short, obese people must be extra cautious since COVID-19 is likely to stay for some time. Daily exercise and weight loss are two effective ways for obese people to improve their overall metabolic function and wellbeing while also lowering their risk of COVID-19 infection.

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