COVID-19, Excess Weight and a Poor Diet: a High-Risk Cocktail

Photo: AFP
  • Cambodianess
  • April 4, 2021 7:24 AM

The World Obesity Federation just released a study which confirms that mortality linked to COVID-19 is significantly higher in countries that have the greatest proportion of overweight people.

This report demonstrates that, in countries in which more than half of the adult population is classified as overweight, the probability of death due to COVID-19 is 10 times higher than in countries in which less than 50 percent of the population is overweight. Among the 2.5 million coronavirus victims registered at the end of February 2021, 2.2 million were in countries in which more than half of the population is classified as overweight.    

Cambodia is not in this category of country, which is a good thing since the pandemic has not yet been contained.   

According to data—old maybe but that gives an order of magnitude—the country in 2016 had 16.4 percent of the population considered overweight and 2.9 percent obese. Therefore far from 50 percent of the population, although these percentages have no doubt increased given the evolution of the lifestyle and eating habits.   

How does this study concern us, in Cambodia, one might ask.

This concerns us as it is a reminder that everything that leads to excess weight or obesity—an increase in the consumption of processed food and sweetened drinks, a drop in physical activity—degrades the human body and affects its strength.

So, by extrapolation from the data of the World Obesity Federation, this study suggests that the nature of the dietary habits have an impact on the number of deaths. Countries in which people eat vegetables and legumes—beans, lentils, fava beans and peas—the most are significantly less affected than countries in which people have a diet rich in meat, vegetable oil or sugar, the strongest link between deaths due to COVID-19 and diet being sweetened beverage consumption.         

According to the study, the high percentage of diets with a prevalence of high fat, high sugar and refined carbohydrates—referred to as Western diet—across the world contributes to the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and could expose those populations to a heightened risk of serious medical condition and mortality linked to COVID-19.   

This Western diet stimulates the innate immune system and alters the adaptive immunity, generating chronic inflammation and an alteration of the host defense against viruses, the study read.

Well, isn’t the path taken here, at least in cities.

It would be difficult to say how this pandemic will evolve. Some experts have suggested that the coronavirus could become as inoffensive as those that cause the common cold. Others tell us that we will have to get used to live with it and, maybe, to get vaccinated every year. And others say that, if this one eventually disappears, it will be replaced by a similar one in a few years.     

Whatever happens in the future, there will be many lessons to be learned from this virus, and especially this one emphasized in this report: that today, more than ever, a greater access to healthy food should be an utmost priority and that people should be mindful of healthy eating habits.  


This applies to all, including people in this country, before a step backward becomes impossible, especially for young people whom junk food manufacturers have made their priority target.       



Related Articles