Obesity is an emerging independent risk factor for susceptibility to and severity of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). It is increasingly being recognised as a predisposing factor in the coronavirus led disease, Covid-19. The health experts have warned that contraction of the Covid-19 and its fatality are 70 per cent higher in people who are overweight or obese.
Ritika Samaddar, Regional Head, Department of Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics, Max Super Speciality Hospital, said that diabetes is no longer a cosmetic issue but emerged as a new disease. "Obesity is a new disease that we need to fight. During this time, we have noticed the obese people are the ones who are getting the severity of the Covid-19. The mortality rate is high only in these people. It is imperative for us to recognize it as a medical issue. Obesity could no longer be restricted to a cosmetic problem or something that has to do with the looks. People with severe Obesity often end up in ventilators, which makes it very difficult for them to recover," she said, addressing a panel discussion during a webinar on lifestyle behaviours during Covid-19.
The webinar was organized by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) as a part of their ongoing series on health- 'Illness to Wellness'.
She also said the public should consider obesity as a disease and take all precautions like dietary, lifestyle, or medical management. "It is high time to realize how important being healthy is. Being healthy means high immunity, which reduces susceptibility to any viral infection," Samaddar added.
Ishi Khosla, Clinical Nutritionist, Centre for Dietary Counselling, said that obese people have a 70 per cent higher chance of contracting the viral disease and suffering from its severe symptoms. People who are overweight or obese are more vulnerable to contracting novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and dying from Covid-19. Besides, it is a significant risk factor for various health conditions. She stressed upon the need to check diet and restart physical activities to tackle the weight issues. "People need to get back to physical activities like walking, jogging, cycling, and running even if gyms continue to remain shut as this is going to be the new normal and will continue to be so for the next few months," she added.
Khosla further added that to battle obesity, the focus should be laid on the consumption of functional foods and increasing fermented food consumption. For non-vegetarians, she suggested balancing meat consumption with an anti-inflammatory diet to keep the digestive and gut system healthy.
The experts also elaborated on the emerging lifestyle diseases triggered by Covid-19 like insomnia, adverse eating habits caused due to ungainly work hours, and excessive screen time.
Khosla said that people who have insomnia must increase the intake of magnesium in their diet.
"People who are generally healthy are complaining of not being able to sleep. Anxiety and the fear of uncertainty are there for all. There are two parts to tackling it, one is diet, and the other is lifestyle interventions. For diets, eat food that is easy to digest. When your digestion is good, your body begins to relax and can focus on other functions. To calm your nervous system, specific vitamins and minerals are there that are mostly ignored. Magnesium is an under-diagnosed deficiency. As a supplement, it can do much good work for people with anxiety and sleep disorders. It can play several roles like cholesterol, diabetes, and sleep management," she added.
Khosla also emphasized the need to balance screen time and chair time, "No matter what we do, we need to keep moving so there should not be more than an hour of constant sitting. This should be followed by 10-15 minutes of walking or strolling. We need to take that break to get up and stretch. Sitting can lead to inflammation. The same goes for screen times. There has to be a pause button," she added.
Anil Rajput, Chairperson of ASSOCHAM CSR Council, reflected on the importance of balancing lifestyle with the right food and exercise. "Lifestyle behavior plays a critical role even if we discuss it without the Covid-19 pandemic's backdrop. Everything in life depends on balance and consistency. Therefore, the right balance of regular exercise, be it yoga, running or cycling, eating a nutritious diet, providing basic vitamins and minerals, and having multi-vitamins and mental relaxation can go a long way in warding off many diseases," he said.