Coronavirus: Why obesity is a risk factor for COVID complications – and how to lose weight

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Following a coronavirus infection, people can either feel fine and be asymptomatic, or show classic signs of the disease – such as a high temperature. Why does being obese out you at higher risk of complications?

On Friday, November 13, a research paper was published online by Cambridge University Press.

The scientists noted obesity “alters innate and adaptive immune responses” in a harmful way.

“Creating a chronic and low-grade state of inflammation”, the body becomes stressed.

Carrying excess weight is a direct risk for COVID complications due to the inflammation it causes.

Moreover, obesity can heighten the risk of other co-morbidities, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Combined, these factors “increase the risk [a person’s vulnerability] to severe COVID-19” and hospitalisation.

They added: “Nutritional status is closely related to a better or worse prognosis [i.e. outlook] of viral infections.”

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The researchers explained that most obese people have “altered microbiota diversity”.

Considering there is a “mutual interplay” between gut microbiota and the immune system, the use of “probiotics could be promising”.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are “live bacteria and yeast”, explained WebMD. They “keep your gut healthy”.

You can find probiotics in supplements and yoghurt; there are two main types – lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.

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Notably the most common type of probiotic, it’s found in yoghurts and fermented foods.


Found in some dairy products, this is especially useful for easing symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

The research paper added that as well as probiotics, adequate intake of nutrients from “unprocessed food” can help strengthen the immune system.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet “is an important part of maintaing good health”, confirmed the NHS.

This means enacting portion control – “most people in the UK eat too many calories” warned the national health service.

Thus, “most adults in England are overweight or obese” – check your body mass index (BMI) here.

In order to lose weight safely, the NHS weight loss plan is a 12-week diet and exercise programme that could help.

Available online, on the App Store and Google Play, the plan is at your fingertips.

To lose weight safely, you can shed 1lb to 2lb each week by sticking to a daily calorie allowance.

For men, this means eating no more than 1900kcal a day; for women, this is 1400kcal.

In addition to reduced calorie consumption, regular physical activity is key in your weight loss journey.

The ideal BMI would place you in the healthy weight category between 18.5 to 24.9.

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