Becoming More COVID-19 Resistant
Weight and Nutrition Play a Role
by Dan Gleason, DC
A majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. are associated with four preexisting cardiometabolic conditions, according to a February study in The Journal of the American Heart Association. Based on an analysis of data from the CDC and the COVID tracking project through November 18, 2020, the top four conditions were obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart failure.
When the conditions were considered jointly (to allow for overlap), the authors estimated that nearly two-thirds (63.5%) of hospitalizations for COVID-19 were associated with these conditions. They also estimated that even a ten percent reduction of those conditions in the population could potentially have decreased COVID-19 hospitalizations by more than 11 percent.
Senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., told Medscape Medical News, “We are closing businesses and stopping people from seeing their loved ones, but we are not telling them to lose weight and do some exercise. We should be focusing public health messages on reducing diabetes and obesity as a means to reduce severe COVID disease.”
Indeed, if people exercised more and followed healthier diets, they could improve diabetes and hypertension numbers within weeks.
Mozaffarian cautioned that because the analysis of the data was essentially a correlation, it didn’t conclusively prove that there was an actual cause-and-effect relationship between the conditions and hospitalization rates. However, because of the strength and robustness of the correlation, he believed the conditions did have a direct effect. In addition, it’s known that these four conditions cause significant morbidity and premature mortality from a host of other diseases.
More evidence exists about the relationship between obesity and COVID-19. For example, a study published in MedRxiv, a product of Yale University and The British Medical Journal, noted that persons with a very high Body Mass Index (BMI) tended to have a significantly weakened antibody response to existing COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, the CDC notes that obesity triples one’s risk of being hospitalized. It is also known that obesity impairs the immune system.
Similarly, a World Obesity Federation study, using data from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization, found a ten-fold increase in COVID-19 risk with obesity. It also found that no country with an average BMI less than 25 was experiencing a high COVID-19 rate. For example, most of Sub-Saharan Africa has a very low rate of COVID-19 hospitalization and death. It also has obesity rates of less than ten percent. The U.S. currently has an obesity rate of over 36 percent.
Diabetes, obesity and hypertension are exacerbated by the abysmal American diet and, to a much lesser extent, lack of exercise. Excess sweets, sodas and refined starches are the main culprits, followed by hydrogenated and overheated vegetable fats, like margarine. These are prevalent in fast food; in convenience store food; and in the snack, cereal and soft drink aisles in the supermarket. Far too many Americans have poor health due to such a diet, then expect the health care system to save them, often with incredibly expensive and marginally effective heroic measures.
There is a wealth of useful information in books like Stop Prediabetes Now, The Diabetes Code and The Ketogenic Cookbook. Most clinics of functional medicine can counsel patients on these life-saving ways of eating. There’s currently an enormous push for vaccines, perhaps rightly so, but there also needs to be an increased emphasis on eating right and exercising. If enough Americans changed their ways, there would be huge improvements in the complications and deaths from many conditions, not just COVID-19.
Dr. Dan Gleason is the owner of The Gleason Center located at 19084 North Fruitport Road in Spring Lake. For more info: go to TheGleasonCenter.com or call 616-846-5410.