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Obesity and COVID-19: All Your Questions Answered


Obesity and COVID-19: All Your Questions Answered

About eight million Canadians live with obesity, and the number has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides, obesity is a risk factor for severe COVID-19 infections. 

So, COVID-19 may be a cause of obesity, and obesity increases the risk of COVID-19 complications, forming a vicious cycle.

But why is there an increase in obesity prevalence during the pandemic?

Or how can you prevent putting on weight?

If you also have similar questions, you are on the right page.

This article will talk about most major aspects of COVID-19 and obesity.

Prevalence of Obesity in Canadians

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/mor more.

About one in seven Canadians are obese, including both children and adults. The prevalence of obesity in Canadian adults is 25%, affecting one in every four adults.

Harmful effects of obesity on health

Obesity increases the risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Some cancers
  • Premature death

Obesity in kids may increase the risk of:

  • High cholesterol levels
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure

Childhood obesity can affect the quality of life, affecting educational attainment.

Impact of Pandemic on Obesity

The majority of the people have had an active lifestyle before the pandemic, going to a gym or jogging. But during the pandemic, various fitness centres were shut down, decreasing the activity. Besides, with people working from home and erratic lifestyles, they may not be moving much.

The diet may also be the contributing factor. The stress of the pandemic and working throughout the clock has caused people to reach for their comfort food more than ever. They may also tend to eat whatever is available rather than going for healthier food options.

So, the factors contributing to obesity during the pandemic are:

  • Limited or no access to fitness centers
  • Increased screen time and reduced activity
  • Irregular sleep cycle
  • Unhealthy dietary habits
  • Increased stress
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Closed obesity clinics
  • The stress of losing jobs

Pandemic and Childhood Obesity

Experts have seen a significant increase in obesity rates among children. There was about a 2% increase in childhood obesity within a year, which may be a worrying factor.

The lockdown resulted in poor diets, less physical activity, and altered sleep schedules. These bad habits are the cause of dangerous weight gain in children.

Obesity as a Risk Factor for COVID-19

Extensive research on COVID-19 suggests that obesity may be a risk for more severe infection.

Here are some ways obesity may increase the risk of COVID-19 complications:

  • Adipose (fat) tissues have a high number of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors. The coronavirus has an increased affinity for these receptors and can extensively bind to them. Thus, the higher the number of fatty cells, the more severe is the infection.
  • The COVID-19 virus results in a state of inflammation. Besides, increased visceral fat triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals, cytokines. These chemicals are responsible for a low-grade form of inflammation. This may reduce the vaccine efficacy, according to a few studies.
  • Obesity is also a contributing factor for vascular complications of COVID-19, such as clot formation, increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
  • Experts also suggest that obesity alters the functioning of the lungs, which may further make the lungs more prone to the damage caused by the coronavirus.
  • Obesity-associated disorders such as type 2 diabetes and heart diseases are risk factors for severe COVID-19 complications. Obese individuals are about twice as likely to need ICU hospitalization than the general population.

Tips To Prevent Weight Gain During the Pandemic

Fortunately, various lifestyle changes can help manage or prevent weight gain.

Let’s have a look at a few of them:

Being Active

Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of activity daily or for five days a week. The activity can be a simple walk or exercises that can be done at home. Besides, it is best to take a break every 30 minutes and move around.

Making these small changes can make a huge difference.

Eating A Healthy Diet

The primary element of a healthy diet is to stay away from foods with added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats.

Some healthy options include:

  • Fresh, whole fruits such as apples, strawberries, and pomegranate
  • Fresh vegetables such as broccoli, avocado, and greens
  • Whole grains such as wheat, rice, soy, rye, and barley
  • Low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as cheese and yogurt
  • Protein-rich food items such as eggs, lean meats, lentils, seafood, and beans
  • Seeds such as sesame and flax seeds
  • Nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and pistachios
  • Vegetable oils such as olive and flaxseed oil

Making Lifestyle Changes

Some lifestyle changes that may help are:

  • Consume enough liquids
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Avoid excess alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking
  • Manage stress through activities such as yoga and meditation
  • Stay connected with friends and family
  • Seek support whenever needed

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Deal With Weight Gain During The Lockdown?

Let us tell you that if you are worried about gain in weight during the lockdown, you are not the only one. The pandemic has seen a significant rise in obesity due to various factors, including stress and reduced physical activity.

Not to forget the pressure of social media where people are uploading their fitness videos and new achievements. However, sometimes you may just feel sad about what is going wrong worldwide and enjoy your favourite meal to improve your mood. 

The most important thing to do is not being too hard on yourself. Make minor changes such as eating healthy or going for a walk and try and stick to it. When you are not in the mood, do not push yourself too hard. Take things slowly. 

Is It True That Canadians Are gaining More Weight in The pandemic?

While this may not be true for everyone, there is a significant increase in the prevalence of obesity in Canadians due to the pandemic.  An increase in screen time, reduced activity, unhealthy eating habits, and stress are some of the major contributing factors for weight gain during the lockdown.

Final Thoughts

The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced activity in the lockdown, in addition to erratic eating habits, have increased the incidence of obesity in Canadians. And, obesity increases the risk of COVID-19 associated complications such as heart attack and stroke, forming a vicious cycle.

Fortunately, lifestyle changes, including being active and eating a healthy diet, can prevent weight gain and COVID-19 complications.

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