Obesity predisposes to COVID-19 virus pandemic disease
COVID-19 virus infection caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus presents a great diversity of clinical manifestations, of which the most serious is respiratory. Severe pneumonia caused by pathogenic humans is a key factor in the severity and lethality of the disease.
Basic diseases, also known as comorbidities, which include hypertension, diabetes, obesity, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), HIV, among others, increase the risk against the COVID-19 virus. That is why people with these conditions have been prioritized in the National Vaccination Plan. Meanwhile, available studies on the role of obesity in COVID-19 suggest that people with obesity are at higher risk of hospitalization, intensive care, mechanical ventilation, and/or death, regardless of the presence of other comorbidities.
WHO defines overweight and obesity as the abnormal or excessive accumulation of fat that can affect health. Several non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer associates with this affectation. WHO together with various studies, classify obesity as a non-infectious pandemic, a serious health problem neglected worldwide and exacerbated by the current COVID-19 virus pandemic, becoming a component of poor prognosis (The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence) in infected patients.
Several publications show that obese subjects have a higher risk of developing a more serious coronavirus disease. Obesity influences respiratory function, pulmonary gas exchange (or external respiration is the process of removing CO2 from blood and replenishing oxygen supply. It occurs between alveoli and the blood of lungs), ventilatory mechanics (refers to the expression of lung function through measures of pressure and flow), elastic lung resistance, and a chronic inflammatory state. These repercussions can enhance and aggravate the immune response against viral infection, resulting in self-injury of the lungs, and a much bleaker evolution of it.
Another important factor in obesity, and potentially involved in the increased risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19 virus, is intestinal dysbiosis. Obesity associates with a weakened composition of the gut microbiome, which in turn is essential for the regulation of the host’s immune system and for protection against infection. Specifically, studies show that these predispositions, regardless of other comorbidities, lead to obesity as a risk factor for hospitalization and, at the same time admission to the ICU, where they are more likely to need invasive mechanical ventilation. All of this translates into higher mortality in obese patients, and even in younger patients.
In conclusion, obese patients have a higher risk of suffering from the infection and are more vulnerable to the complications that they develop once infected. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic favors and seems to be generating more inactivity and sedentary lifestyle and an increase in changes in eating behavior that leads to an increase in caloric intake.
Therefore, it is essential to implement policies that attack this health problem, since it would reduce both the risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 and the risk of chronic diseases. Therefore, it is important to implement and prioritize programs related to physical activity, together with a varied and healthy diet, to reduce weight and thus prevent the consequences derived.
Article was written by
Milton Enrique Londoño LemosM.Sc.; PhD; Postdoctoral Researcher