Review identifies connection between obesity, metabolic health, COVID-19

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A new research review published in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology highlights the interconnection of obesity and impaired metabolic health with the severity of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

For the review, researchers summarized and discussed data from large and well-performed studies that investigated independent relationships of obesity with the severity of COVID-19, looking at the contribution of obesity, visceral fatness, and impaired metabolic health for the course of COVID-19. The researchers said they found convincing evidence that obesity and overt diabetes, but also visceral obesity and even mild hyperglycemia, represent important risk factors for the disease course. These risk factors most probably may have an additive effect on the severity of COVID-19, they said.

The researchers also discussed the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 infection on organ function, focusing on the cardiometabolically-relevant tissues and organs such as the vessel wall, heart, kidneys, liver, gut, and pancreas. They addressed both the immediate damage of COVID-19 to the organs and the long-term effects of the disease. They found that obesity and cardiometabolic diseases not only triggered a more severe course of COVID-19, but the SARS-CoV-2 infection promoted the development of these conditions.

The review also looked at how treatment of obesity and impaired cardiometabolic health helps to avert a severe COVID-19 in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. In this respect, healthcare professionals should now, more than ever, promote the health benefits of physical activity and support efforts to implement programs and policies to facilitate increased physical activity and to promote a healthy diet, the researchers said.

This might not only be relevant to directly reduce the burden of COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality among those infected but may also be important in the context of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, where response should be carefully evaluated in patients with obesity or diabetes mellitus, because of a potentially reduced or shortened response.

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