Bad Covid? It’s the diet!

A Covid-19 infection can be serious for anyone who is obese or has one of four chronic health problems—and this trumps age. A poor diet of processed food and drink is the single biggest factor to determine the severity of a Covid-19 infection. People who are obese represent 30 percent of cases that need emergency hospital care, while those with type 2 diabetes—a disease strongly linked to having a bad diet—account for another 20 percent.

And that’s true at any age. A 35-year-old who is obese or has diabetes, hypertension or heart disease has the same risk profile for severe Covid as a 75-year-old with none of these conditions. In fact, almost two-thirds of Covid cases that need hospital care are attributable to obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes or heart failure.

Some 64 percent of these hospitalizations might never have happened if people were less obese or didn’t have type 2 diabetes, say researchers from Tufts University. They analyzed the 906,000 Covid cases needing hospital care in the US up to last November using population-level statistics on known risk factors for severe infection.1

It’s no coincidence that the US has recorded the highest number of Covid deaths. Although it represents just 5 percent of the world’s population, US Covid deaths make up 25 percent of the global death toll—and that’s because half of Americans are diabetic or prediabetic, nearly half are hypertensive, and three in four are obese or overweight.

A vaccine is no silver bullet, and the emphasis still needs to be on better diets and healthier lifestyles. Researcher Dariush Mozaffarian said: “We know that changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss, rapidly improve health within just six to eight weeks.”

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1 J Am Heart Assoc, 2021; 10: e019259

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