Pandemic Meets Epidemic: Obesity and COVID-19

May 21, 2021 by Alexa Hornbeck
Pandemic Meets Epidemic: Obesity and COVID-19

Marna Gatlin, a 58-year-old from Portland, Ore., is the administrator of a Facebook support group for morbidly obese individuals. Gatlin has struggled with obesity for several years but found this past year to be more challenging. 

“I decided during the pandemic I would not get on the scale because I didn’t want to depress myself, but could feel my clothes get tighter,” said Gatlin. “This whole lockdown has caused a lot of mental health issues and people are gaining weight.”  

A recent study by researchers at University of San Francisco examined changes in body weight during the pandemic-related shelter-in-place orders in 37 states and Washington, D.C. from February 1 to June 1, 2020.  

Out of 269 study participants who volunteered to report weight measurements from their Bluetooth-connected smart scale via Fitbit or ihealth devices, researchers found a steady weight gain at a rate of about 1.5 lbs. every month following lockdown orders.  


Another report from the American Psychological Association conducted this year in February titled, “Stress in America,” finds that 42% of U.S. adults have gained weight, 29 pounds, on average since the start of the pandemic. 

“The data on weight gain and loss, together with changes in sleeping habits, and alcohol consumption signals that many adults may be having difficulties managing stressors, including grief and trauma,” said Dr. Vaile Wright, American Psychological Association senior director for health care innovation. 

“I suffer from depression and know that ties into the issue, it’s an addiction factor,” said Gatlin. 

Gatlin experienced sleep issues throughout the pandemic, which often led to late night eating, and she was unable to remain physically active as she could no longer participate in activities like swimming or walking with her support group.  

“Eating healthy and organically is also expensive, especially with the pandemic, and often people from a low socioeconomic status will eat ramen full of salt, or cheese and bread, anything easy to fix, which is often laden with fat and calories and high in carbs,” said Gatlin. 


In the APA study population, 61% of adults reported experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic, with more than 42% saying they gained more weight than they intended.  

“The median weight gain of 15 pounds, which is a remarkable figure, particularly if you take into account the typical tendency to underreport weight and weight gain,” said Wright.  

Significant weight gain poses long-term health risks, and according to the National Institutes of Health, people who are obese and gain more than 11 pounds are at higher risk of developing Type II diabetes mellitus and coronary heart disease, and people who gain more than 24 pounds are at higher risk of developing ischemic stroke. 

“People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop serious illness from the coronavirus,” said Wright.   

“If I got this, I would be dead. I have diabetes, and asthma conditions because of medication I take, and my rheumatologist and infectious disease specialists said they are glad I got the vaccine, because if I got COVID-19 I would be on a ventilator or worse,” said Gatlin. 

“There have been people in our group that have contracted COVID, and it was scary for them, their whole families got it, and you wonder if this is your time,” Gatlin continued.  

An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are due to the obesity epidemic, and president of the World Obesity Federation, Donna Ryan, said obesity is not only a driver of risk for type 2 diabetes, it is also a driver of cardiovascular disease, 13 kinds of cancer, and more than 200 diseases.   


“The COVID-19 epidemic exposed the impact that obesity has on health. It is not a cosmetic problem. It’s a health problem.  It’s not the result of bad choices. It’s the result of genetic susceptibility and many other complex factors,” said Ryan. 

“It’s not black and white, morbid obesity is complicated and expensive, it’s not just a head game,” said Gatlin.  

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Health

August 12, 2022
by Dan McCue
What the Latest COVID Guidance Means for Back to School

WASHINGTON — A hit in the early 1970s featured children in its final refrain singing, “no more pencils, no more... Read More

WASHINGTON — A hit in the early 1970s featured children in its final refrain singing, “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks.” If the song were updated this year, Alice Cooper might be tempted to have them throw in “no more remote... Read More

Polio Detected in NYC's Sewage, Suggesting Virus Circulating

NEW YORK (AP) — The polio virus has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the... Read More

NEW YORK (AP) — The polio virus has been found in New York City’s wastewater in another sign that the disease, which hadn’t been seen in the U.S. in a decade, is quietly spreading among unvaccinated people, health officials said Friday. The presence of the poliovirus... Read More

Dems Near Congressional Passage of Climate, Health Package

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats pushed their flagship climate change and health care bill toward House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats pushed their flagship climate change and health care bill toward House passage Friday, placing President Joe Biden on the brink of a back-from-the-dead triumph on his leading domestic goals that could energize his party going into November’s elections. Democrats were poised to muscle the measure through the... Read More

August 11, 2022
by Dan McCue
CDC Streamlines COVID Guidelines, Dropping Quarantine, Other Recommendations

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping its recommendation that Americans quarantine... Read More

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping its recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person. Instead it is urging those who know they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but not sick... Read More

August 11, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
White House Revises Monkeypox Vaccine Strategy

WASHINGTON — The White House is rearranging its monkeypox response with a strategy for stretching the supply of vaccines and... Read More

WASHINGTON — The White House is rearranging its monkeypox response with a strategy for stretching the supply of vaccines and with new leadership on its task force. The new strategy announced Tuesday calls for two injections of the vaccine but at only one-fifth the normal potency... Read More

August 11, 2022
by Alexa Hornbeck
Some in Drug Industry Fear Inflation Reduction Act Could Hinder Drug Innovation

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the roughly $740 billion tax, climate and health care package known as the Inflation Reduction... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed the roughly $740 billion tax, climate and health care package known as the Inflation Reduction Act on Aug. 7, by a vote of 51-50. The massive package includes provisions to reduce drug costs for patients and providers by letting Medicare negotiate... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top