Are COVID-19 and Obesity Linked?

COVID-19 and Obesity

COVID-19 and obesity are linked, say new studies, which simply means that you have a greater chance of becoming infected and dying from the COVID-19 coronavirus if you’re obese. Read on to see what constitutes obesity and what you can do to lose weight and improve immunity.

Check out my Covid Immunity Course

 COVID-19 and Obesity

The fast answer to the question, “is COVID-19 and obesity linked” is…

Sure looks like it.

I’m going to show you the recent research on this linkage between COVID-19 and obesity, and then suggest some proven ways to lose weight while simultaneously improving your resistance to COVID-19 infection by improving your immune system.

If a short video course that teaches how to improve your immunity in the COVID-19 era may interest you, be sure to let me know at the bottom of this post.


Obesity In the Industrialized World

global obesity map

Let’s first depict the problem:

42% of American adults were obese in 2017~2018, according to the CDC.

People in the rest of the world are leaner than Americans, but too many are still overweight and obese. Here are some key facts presented by the World Health Organization on March 3, 2020:

  • Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
  • In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
  • 39% of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2016, and 13% were obese.
  • Most of the world’s population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
  • 40 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2018.
  • Over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.
  • Obesity is preventable.

Obesity has been a major health problem for many years; in fact, one of my first blog posts was a five-part series on obesity, because this condition aggravates nearly all chronic diseases and one’s overall quality of life.

Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer that are some of the leading causes of preventable, premature death, says the CDC.

But where’s the demarcation between being “overweight” and being “obese”?

In general:

  • If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

BMI stands for “Body Mass Index”, and although it is not an accurate measurement for measuring body fat for people with above average muscle mass, it’s use in clinical settings is pervasive.

Click here to calculate your BMI

BMI For Adults Widget


Better than BMI is a quick look in the mirror at your naked self — this will tell the tale:

Is COVID-19 and Obesity Linked

Is COVID-19 and Obesity Linked

From left to right: 26-29%, 30-33%, 34-37% and 38-43%

Now that the reality check is done, let’s next look at the COVID-19 and obesity link.


The COVID-19 and Obesity Link

Obesity is one of the highest risk factors for developing a severe case of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

According to several new preliminary studies from around the world, obesity is the second highest risk factor for severe cases of COVID-19, with old age being the first, The New York Times reported.

That’s not good news for Americans, given that 42% of that population is obese.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and those with obesity tend to have decreased lung function. Obesity also causes inflammation in the body, which tends to lead to worse reactions to COVID-19. Abdominal obesity can cause compression of the diaphragm, lungs and chest capacity. Obesity is also known to cause chronic, low-grade inflammation and an increase in circulating, pro-inflammatory cytokines, which may play a role in the worst Covid-19 outcomes.

One large study of 4,000 COVID-19 patients at NYU Langone Hospital in New York City found that obesity was the second-highest reason why patients were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Another, separate study from NYU Langone found that patients under 60 years old with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 34 were twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital with severe cases of COVID-19, and nearly twice  more likely to need treatment in the intensive care unit.

Similar studies in China and France also found that a significant amount of COVID-19 patients were obese. One French study of 124 patients in intensive care found that the need for ventilation increased based on their weight, and 47% of those patients were obese or severely obese.

If you’re very overweight or obese, use your fear of the COVID-19 obesity link as motivation to begin a program to lose some body fat.


Six Things You Can Do To Get Leaner and Improve Your Immunity

obesity is a risk marker for COVID-19 infection

Clearly, getting rid of some excess body fat is no longer a matter of aesthetics or preventing some future health consequences. Given the COVID-19 obesity link, the impact of too much body fat may be right around the corner.

If losing weight makes sense to you, the six things you can begin doing are:

  1. Eat more plants, less artificial food.
  2. Collapse your eating window.
  3. Feed your bugs.
  4. Alternate between resistance training and cardio exercise.
  5. Enhance your immune system with supplements.
  6. Sleep.

I’ll touch on each of these, and you may check out the links provided below for a fuller examination of each topic.

#1 Eat More Plants, Less Artificial Food

Plants are veggies, whole fruits (not juice), legumes and beans. Artificial food is what is packaged and processed, looking much unlike the original ingredients did on the farm.

Plant food typically is more nutritious and has more fiber than other food classifications.

The Net is awash in simple, nutritious recipes about how to make plant-based meals. If you’re motivated, you’ll quickly find those that are appealing.

More Resources

(1) What Your Waist to Height Ratio Reveals About Your Health and How A Plant-based Diet Can Improve It

You’ve heard of BMI, yes? Although it’s the standard measurement of body composition, it’s near worthless. What you need to know is your Waist to Height Ratio. Learn why it’s such a valuable indicator and predictor of your health and lifespan, how to measure it, and what to do if your ratio is more than “2”.

(2) How A Plant Diet Optimizes Hormones, Improves Gut Health, Reduces Depression and Simply Kicks Ass

It’s not complicated — the best diet is a plant diet; meaning a diet with with the most plant foods. Eat some meat, eat some diary, eat some grains, but focus on eating plants every day and your health will thrive.

(3) Eat Like A Gorilla — Your Scientifically Proven Best Diet

Your scientifically proven best diet is the one your friendly neighborhood gorilla eats. No, not your hairy, shirtless neighbor, but the one in the zoo, or the few in the jungle. Eat like a gorilla and you’ll live longer and with more vitality and less chronic illness.

#2 Collapse Your Eating Window

People who do all their eating during a few hours a day, rather than eating and snacking all day and into the evening, tend to consume less calories overall, although typically the caloric difference is modest.

A better reason to try what’s referred to as intermittent fasting is to improve your cells’ ability to rejuvenate, a process called autophagy that is thought to be a necessary part of extending healthspan and improving cellular immune responses.

You need to fast at least 12 hours before autophagy kicks in, and even then the effect is unsubstantial, which is one reason many intermittent fasting programs suggest that the fasting period extend beyond 12 hours.

This isn’t as hard as you might think if you take your time to gradually increase the fasting period. If 12 hours is your initial goal, eight of them are spent in sleep, so you’re three-quarters done, leaving another four hours of awake time that you need to forgo food, although coffee (sans milk, cream or sugar) or herbal tea sare fine.

Once 12 hours of fasting is a snap, extend it hour by hour. An effective intermittent fasting program will have you adding another four hours, bringing the total to 16. Remember: reach for 16 hours gradually.

Another great thing to do is to stop eating well before bedtime. We are not raccoons, but are diurnal animals, which means our circadian rhythms are set to properly metabolize food eaten during the day, not at night.

Circadian expert Dr. Satchidananda Panda says that “when you eat is more important than what you eat”, and recommends that you don’t eat after 7:00 PM, or earlier.

In my case, for six days a week I begin eating between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM (depending on my exercise load for that or the previous day), and stop eating at 7:00 PM (although I’m endeavoring to stop earlier and progressively getting more successful at finishing my last meal at 6:30 PM).

In your case, if unfamiliar with intermittent fasting:

  1. Gradually decrease your feeding window, first by finishing your last meal (or snack) by one-half earlier in the evening each week until you get to 7:00 PM or earlier.
  2. Gradually increase the time in the morning when you eat breakfast. Coffee and tea helps you endure.
  3. At first, try #2 just a few days per week, but work on #1 every night.

More Resources

(1) 3 Great Reasons For Intermittent Fasting (and 4 Ways to Do It)

Here we explore 3 great reasons or Intermittent Fasting, among many. Also presented are 4 different types you can choose from. One of them is right for you, and as you’ll soon discover, you’ll be grateful you did. (Watch the video!)

(2) Dr. Fong: “How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight By Optimizing Insulin and Leptin”

Ditch the calorie counting! Instead, learn how to optimize your insulin and leptin (ghrelin too). These hormones are what control your body fat. Get them working for you through practicing Intermittent Fasting. Dr. Jason Fung points the way — Watch!

(3) Why Intermittent Fasting Is Your Ticket To A Long and Healthy Life

Intermittent Fasting (“IF”) is your ticket to a long and healthy life because it mimics the only proven way to increase lifespan — caloric restriction. CR is very hard. IF can be easy, and the health benefits astounding. Take years off your biological age by selecting the IF program that works for you. Watch!

#3 Feed Your Bugs

By “bugs” I’m referring to the microbiota (bacteria) that reside in your gut with whom we have a crucial symbiotic relationship.

There are more bug cells in and on you than human cells, and although that doesn’t make you a humanbug, you need to know the effect such critters have upon your health, because their impact is profound!

In the article, Get The Right Gut Bacteria For Weight Loss, I wrote:

Do you have the right gut bacteria for weight loss? You have more than one trillion bacteria in your gut and elsewhere in and on your body and many of them can strongly influence your body composition; meaning how fat, or not, you are. Learn which probiotics can help make you leaner.

But cultivating beneficial gut bacteria isn’t only worthwhile for getting leaner. The specific probiotic strains that you cultivate there can fight obesity, diabetes, depression, fatigue, joint pain, chronic inflammation and much more. It’s often the case that when the bad gut bacteria overwhelm the good critters, they’re the culprits behind some chronic health issues that you can’t explain.

Here are 13 signs that your “bad” gut bacteria are making you sick.

Consuming plant foods and high fiber foods will go a long way to cultivate healthy gut bacteria that will help you get healthier and become more resistant to infections and disease.

More Resources

(1) How The Right Gut Bacteria Benefits Your Health and Longevity

The evidence is incontrovertible — your gut bacteria benefits your health and longevity; if, that is, they’re the right kind. Harmful bacteria influences most chronic diseases and can decrease your healthspan. Find out what to do.

(2) Get The Right Gut Bacteria For Weight Loss

Do you have the right gut bacteria for weight loss? You have more than one trillion bacteria in your gut and elsewhere in and on your body and many of them can strongly influence your body composition; meaning how fat, or not, you are. Learn which probiotics can help make you leaner.

(3) 100 Trillion Reasons You’re Fat, Sick + Depressed

Is it possible that the 100 trillion reasons you might be fat, sick and depressed are due to single-cell bacterium that proliferate your gut (among other places)? Prepare to be amazed, and a bit confounded.

#4 Alternate Between Resistance Training and Cardio Exercise

On April 15, 2020, the University of Virginia reported:

Regular exercise may reduce the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome, a major cause of death in patients with the COVID-19 virus.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says the Virginia report, estimates 20% to 42% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 will develop ARDS. The range for patients admitted to intensive care is estimated at 67% to 85%.

“ARDS” stands for Acute respiratory distress syndrome, and occurs when fluid builds up in the tiny, elastic air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs. Such fluid keeps your lungs from filling with enough air, which means less oxygen reaches your bloodstream, thereby depriving your organs of the oxygen needed to function.

Research conducted prior to the pandemic suggested that approximately 45% of patients who develop severe ARDS will die.

EcSOD can help.

EcSOD — known as extracellular superoxide dismutase, and is also referred to as SOD3 — is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals, protecting our tissues and helping to prevent disease.

Turns out, extensive research has shown that muscles naturally make EcSOD, secreting it into the circulation to allow binding to other vital organs, but its production is enhanced by cardiovascular exercise.

The New York Post reports that Dr. Zhen Yan of the University of Virginia School of Medicine recommends 30 minutes of cardiovascular training every day to help ward off the respiratory disease, but his review of the research did not include studying the effects of exercise on people with COVID-19 as opposed to those not infected.

That said, exercise remains an important way to boost your immune system and keep your lung function healthy, which is especially important during a pandemic. Just make sure you take a measured approach to your exercise in order to hit that immune-boosting sweet spot.

Dr. Jebidiah Ballard, an emergency medicine physician, told BusinessInsider:

Use common sense and assess how your workout makes you feel after. Are you more energized or do you feel wiped out?  This is probably not the time to train for a personal best on a 10K.

Of course, exercises like running, biking or swimming are excellent for your cardiovascular fitness, but when it comes to building muscle, you need resistance training, such as weightlifting or calisthenics.

Why bother with resistance training?

Well, from a weight loss perspective, resistance training is ideal. Although a weight-training workout doesn’t typically burn as many calories as a cardio workout, it’s more effective than cardio at building muscle, and muscle burns more calories at rest, including fat. Consequently, building muscle is the key to increasing your resting metabolism; meaning, the number of calories you burn at rest.

More Resources

(1) Short Home Workouts You Can Do Now With Surprising Results

You’re equipped for home workouts if you have a home and a body. Choose a 4, 7 or 10-minute workout, do it with intensity, and marvel at the surprising results. Watch the videos.

(2) 7 Proven Ways To Break Through Your Weight Loss Plateau

At some point, everyone whose on a mission to lose weight hits a point where what worked before no longer does. When that happens you need to know how to break through your weight loss plateau. Here are seven ways to do it.

(3) 7 Life-saving Reasons Exercise Is The Ultimate Anti-aging Pill

Everyone wants an anti-aging pill. What most don’t know is that they already have one. Exercise is the ultimate anti-aging pill, verified by science, as you’ll soon see. Thing is, you need both resistance training (weigh lifting/calisthenics) and cardiovascular conditioning. Read and watch the video.

#5 Enhance Your Immune System With Supplements

I wrote an article that specifically addresses supplements that may be helpful at helping to improve your immunity to COVID-19, and/or reduce the symptoms and recovery time.

You can jump to any of the following chapters of that article that may be of interest:

Here’s a quick rundown:

Nasal Inhaler for Upper Respiratory Support — since COVID-19 infects the respiratory system, it may be useful to keep your sinuses clear of the virus, something that a nasal inhaler like Xlear nasal spray can do.

Vitamin C — Seventy-odd years of unrefuted observations , supported by hundreds of basic-science papers, show that at least 3–5 grams per day, spread through the day, largely protects against known viruses.

Vitamin D — Our bodies need adequate vitamin D to produce the antimicrobial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. The less vitamin D you have circulating in your body, the less effective your body will produce these proteins and thus become more susceptible to infection.

AgarikonDr. Paul Stamets, has conducted research about the antiviral properties of agarikon with the U.S. Biodefense program, and his findings were supported by scientists from the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). This mushroom, along with chaga, red reishi, and shiitake, fights and prevents the growth of dangerous viruses and bacteria, such as E. Coli, bird flu, and the H5N1 virus.

Cordyceps — The anti-influenza effect of cordyceps extract is thought to be driven by increased natural killer cell activity along with other virus-killing cytokines. In addition, cordyceps have been shown to improve lung health by decreasing inflammation in both chronic asthma and other lung diseases.

ShiitakeShiitake mushrooms have been shown to have antiviral activities against the hepatitis C virus, herpes simplex virus, and human immunodeficiency virus, as well as influenza. When specifically studied on influenza, shiitake was found to inhibit the growth of the virus by preventing the entry and uncoating process of viral infection.

MaitakeIn a Japanese study, maitake mushroom extract was found to significantly inhibit the influenza A virus from replicating, and it stimulated the production of antiviral cytokines such as TNF-alpha.

You can get a more comprehensive review of these and other supplements that may be helpful to prevent COVID-19 infection in my article, How To Boost Your Immune System To Fight Viruses Like Coronavirus (Covid-19).

#6 Sleep

Yes, according to Psychology Today, simple ole sleep can fight back against COVID-19. This is because regular, restful sleep can improve your immune function.

Sleep upregulates your immune system by:

Boosting T Cell production — T Cells are white blood cells that play a critical part in the immune system’s response to viruses. Their activation is an important step in how the body handles invaders, with T Cells attacking and destroying virus-carrying cells.

Improving the immune system’s response to threats — By completing the four sleep cycles, you support the release and production of cytokine, a multifaceted protein that helps the immune system quickly respond to antigens.

Cytokines have two priorities:

  • Promoting cell-to-cell communication.
  • Directing cells to head toward infections to counteract the issue.

These cytokine proteins, in effect, direct your immune cells on how to best fight back against a virus.


Your Takeaway About COVID-19 and Obesity

Remember these two things:

  1. There’s a link between obesity and getting infected with or not surviving COVID-19, because obesity compromises immunity, as well as compounding other chronic health conditions, such as metabolic syndrome.
  2. Exercise, plant foods, sleep and various supplements can help reduce body fat and improve your immune system.



Last Updated on February 25, 2024 by Joe Garma

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Joe Garma

I help people live with more vitality and strength. I'm a big believer in sustainability, and am a bit nutty about optimizing my diet, supplements, hormones and exercise. To get exclusive Updates, tips and be on your way to a stronger, more youthful body, join my weekly Newsletter. You can also find me on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

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