July 20th, 2020

Obesity and the antecedent nutritional triggers of COVID risk are finally in the literature despite not being covered by the media at large if at all over the past 4 months. I have petitioned friends at media outlets including NPR in Charlotte to take a deep look at why certain subgroups of Americans are dying at higher rates. The response, maddeningly, is that they are too busy to look into it based on current events. As if dying from a 120 nanometer silent killer is not worth learning how to prevent. Everyone sees that media outlets have no problem publishing static risk data about metabolic disease. Why then can we not discuss the WHY? That is a mystery that I cannot solve while I do have my beliefs.

Compounding this reality, I am often mystified that even my colleagues in medicine cynically respond that patients are not going to change so why bother discussing nutrition, sleep, alcohol and other lifestyle mitigating factors as it relates to COVID or anything for that matter.

It is a sad day for me when the masses and the profit driven rapid fire medical system have driven cynicism so deeply into some if not many healers that they no longer discuss these critical life changing ideals.

A recently published editorial in the British Medical Journal hits the nail on its head. Dr. Tan and colleagues say what should have been said since March. Here is an excerpt: (read from the link below for the whole piece)

"The covid-19 outbreak seems to be yet one more health problem exacerbated by the obesity pandemic. In 2016 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight or obese worldwide, and this number continues to rise rapidly. The prevalence of overweight and obesity has now reached 65-70% in the UK and US adult populations. Obesity is a major cause of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer and places a great burden on health systems and economies. In 2014-15 the NHS spent more than £6bn (€6.7bn; $7.6bn) on tackling the direct consequences of obesity.

The obesity pandemic is the result of living in food environments where it is difficult not to overconsume calories. The global food industry produces and extensively promotes cheap, sugar sweetened beverages and ultraprocessed foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat that provide only a transient sensation of fullness.

Governments have done too little, with one of the few successes being taxes on sugar sweetened beverages-in particular, the industry levy in the UK that has resulted in reformulation to reduce the sugar content.

It is now clear that the food industry shares the blame not only for the obesity pandemic but also for the severity of covid-19 disease and its devastating consequences. During the covid-19 pandemic an increase in food poverty, disruptions to supply chains, and panic buying may have limited access to fresh foods, thus tilting the balance towards a greater consumption of highly processed foods and those with long shelf lives that are usually high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat. Moreover, since the start of the covid-19 pandemic the food industry has launched campaigns and corporate social responsibility initiatives, often with thinly veiled tactics using the outbreak as a marketing opportunity (for example, by offering half a million "smiles" in the form of doughnuts to NHS staff)." (Tan et. al. 2020)

Akin to the tobacco industry of the 70's through the 90's, Americans are yet again being preyed upon by companies that promise taste and profit over health and vitality. Now, many would say that we all have choice and for that I agree for those that have the means to purchase and easily choose. Yet, the social dysfunction of government subsidized processed foods in poor urban environments makes the theory of choice fall hard for a large portion of America that is now feeling the wrath of COVID19.

It is time we had this tough conversation.

Dr. M

 

Tan British Medical Journal