Even before COVID-19 came around, obesity was one the biggest killers of Americans for years.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the issue. Throughout the rollercoaster of the last 20 months, as the science was constantly shifting and new information was being learned about the virus seemingly daily, it was clear from the very beginning that obesity was one of the biggest risk factors for severe illness or death from COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser and the country’s public face for COVID-19 guidance, said as much all the way back in March 2020: “It’s so clear that the overwhelming weight of serious disease and mortality is on those who are elderly and those with a serious comorbidity: heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, respiratory difficulties.”
Despite being aware of the risks associated with obesity and COVID-19 for the entirety of the pandemic, very little emphasis has been placed on getting Americans to lose some weight in order to fight the pandemic. Losing weight won’t be a quick fix, seeing as it takes some time, but if COVID-19 is going to be with the world forever, as Fauci has admitted, why isn’t it more emphasized?
Fauci has mentioned here and there that obesity is a big problem. He explained in an interview with Hugh Hewitt in March 2021 why obese people specifically are at higher risk. Not only do they tend to have more underlying medical issues, but they physically have a harder time breathing as it is, he said. (RELATED: Put The Burger Down America, The Secret To Our Covid-19 Crisis Is That You’re Too Fat)
He also argued in 2020 that a strategy to defeat the virus through herd immunity was “unacceptable” in part because America has so many fat people that untold numbers might die: “If you look at the United States of America with our epidemic of obesity as it were, with the number of people with hypertension, with the number of people with diabetes, if everyone got infected, the death toll would be enormous and totally unacceptable.”
The doctor seemingly never goes as far as to explicitly tell people to lose weight, though. In an interview with Business Insider, he said three ways to improve the immune system are getting better sleep, having a nutritious diet and getting more sun. In giving his own list of do’s and don’ts to stay safe post-vaccination, he didn’t mention maintaining a healthy weight. “Eat less stuffing and gingerbread cookies” was not in his list of five tips to stay safer from COVID-19 during the holiday season.
America is in an obesity epidemic, with 56% of young adults overweight or obese
1976: 18% overweight / 6% obese
2018: 24% overweight / 33% obese
— TexasVC (@TexasVC) December 6, 2021
The problem is only getting worse. New research from Johns Hopkins University found that 56% of Americans between age 18-25 are now overweight or obese. The obesity rate was 42.4% in all adults in 2017-2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Americans gained weight during lockdowns last year, and data has since come out showing that childhood obesity has increased since the pandemic began. Some of the mitigation efforts society is taking to combat the virus are seemingly contributing to one of its greatest risk factors. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: COVID Disproved The Notion That Morbidly Obese People Are Also ‘Healthy’)
The statistics are damning. Within the early weeks of the pandemic, at least half of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were obese. Earlier this year, a CDC study found that nearly four-in-five hospitalized patients were overweight or obese. Various analyses have directly linked obesity rate to worse COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates at a national level. Still, America’s leading public health officials appear to prefer tip-toeing around telling Americans to drop some pounds to end the pandemic.