Coronavirus UK: Lockdown is perfect time to lose weight

Millions of overweight Britons have been urged to slim down amid stark warnings that obesity may double the risk of becoming hospitalised with coronavirus.

A diet and health expert at the University of Oxford has urged people not to buy biscuits and to use being stuck at home to get their cravings under control.

Professor Susan Jebb said there is 'no time like the present' to lose weight because there are 'barriers to stop you popping to the shop'. People could use the isolation to stock up on healthier food and get their diet under control, she said.

Her comments come amid growing evidence that people who are seriously overweight are more likely to get very ill or die if they catch COVID-19.

This has become such a serious concern that the Government is even considering keeping obese people in lockdown longer to protect them, along with other 'vulnerable' groups such as the elderly and chronically ill. 

Research from the University of Glasgow, published today, found that obesity more than doubles the risk of hospitalisation among coronavirus patients. And even just being overweight - which two thirds of adults are - raised the risk by 60 per cent. 

And study last week, led by University College London, found that obese people are around 37 per cent more likely to die if they catch the disease.

Professor Jebb warned: 'Obesity is putting extra strain on every single organ system of your body, whether it’s your heart in relation to having heart attacks, or now your lungs in relation to COVID... Don’t put it off, get some support, there is no time like the present.'

Researchers have found that obese people have a greater than double risk of ending up in hospital if they become ill with the coronavirus

Researchers have found that obese people have a greater than double risk of ending up in hospital if they become ill with the coronavirus

Professor Susan Jebb, from the University of Oxford, said there is 'no time like the present' to lose weight

Professor Susan Jebb, from the University of Oxford, said there is 'no time like the present' to lose weight

Glasgow University today published an analysis of 340 coronavirus-infected Britons which revealed that being overweight or obese raised their risk of ending up in hospital by 1.6 or 2.3 time, respectively.

Data shows around two thirds of Britons are overweight, while a third of the public is considered clinically obese - defined as having a BMI rate of above 30. 

The UK's obesity crisis is one of the worst in the Western world.

Professor Jebb said that lockdown rules preventing people going on unnecessary shopping trips could help people to stop themselves gorging on fatty foods.

'The first thing to do is to stop buying biscuits and other such foods,' she said.

'The point is that whilst we’re in lockdown, if things are not in your house and in your immediate vicinity you are far, far less likely to eat them.

'There are all sorts of barriers to going out and popping to the shops at the moment, so not having these foods in the house is a great start.

'Take control of what I’d call your "micro environment" - the space we’re now living in. Make sure you have only got healthy things in the house, plan your shopping and plan your meals. 

'We know that structure and planning really helps people manage their weight.'

Unable to socialise, travel or go out at the weekends, people are also likely to have more spare time that they could fill with exercise, Professor Jebb added, but diet was the 'most important thing'.

'Getting exercise takes you out of the house and away from the biscuit tin, and you won’t be passing takeaways and other temptations,' she said.

'Exercise is very positive, because being in lockdown can feel like you’re always being restricted.

'But while physical activity will burn off a few extra calories, it’s true you can’t outrun a bad diet. Diet is important because you have to do a hell of a lot of exercise to just lose weight with exercise.' 

Concerns that obesity seems to make people so much more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 have led the Government to consider shielding' very overweight people.

Draft guidance for lifting lockdown, seen by the Daily Mail, has lumped obese people into a vulnerable group alongside the over-70s and pregnant women.

Being overweight or obese increased the risk of ending up in hospital with the killer infection by 1.6-fold and 2.3-fold, respectively. Other important findings included that black people have a 2.7-fold higher risk of testing positive for the virus in hospital, while the risk for people of South Asian descent was 1.3-fold higher

Being overweight or obese increased the risk of ending up in hospital with the killer infection by 1.6-fold and 2.3-fold, respectively. Other important findings included that black people have a 2.7-fold higher risk of testing positive for the virus in hospital, while the risk for people of South Asian descent was 1.3-fold higher

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said 'data from around the world' suggested being fat put people at extra risk and he ordered a review into how obesity, along with ethnicity and gender, affects coronavirus patients' chances of survival. 

Mr Hancock said: ''It's too early to say if obesity in itself is a factor or conditions associated with it – or there is not enough data yet to rule it out – so we need to approach any assumptions with caution.' 

HOW TO CALCULATE YOUR BODY MASS INDEX - AND WHAT IT MEANS ABOUT YOUR COVID-19 RISK

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on your weight in relation to your height.

Standard Formula:

BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Metric Formula:

BMI = (weight in kilograms / (height in meters x height in meters))

Measurements:

Under 18.5: Underweight

18.5 - 24.9: Healthy

25 - 29.9: Overweight

30 or greater: Obese

SO, HOW HIGH IS YOUR RISK OF BEING HOSPITALISED WITH COVID-19? 

Glasgow University researchers found that underweight people had a 5 per cent greater risk of being admitted to hospital with coronavirus, compared to healthy people. Overweight people had a 62 per cent greater risk than healthy people, while the risk was 129 per cent higher for obese people. 

People of a normal weight were used as a comparison to show how they face the lowest risk from the coronavirus. 

The Glasgow university team took their data from the UK Biobank, which recruited 37-70 year olds in 2006-2010 from the general population.  

BMI, smoking status, walking pace - a measure of fitness, ethnicity and any health conditions were collected at the time.   

The recent outcome of a confirmed positive COVID-19 test, given by Public Health England, was provided and compared with the Biobank data.

The preliminary results showed that extra weight was a risk factor for ending up in hospital with COVID-19. 

While being overweight rose the risk by 60 per cent, being underweight led to a small increased risk of five per cent.

Lead researcher Dr Paul Welsh said although obese people are more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19, the differences in BMI 'is part of the picture, but certainly not all of it'.

He told MailOnline: 'I think the study adds to the picture we are getting from a range of different sources that people who have a higher body mass index are a bit more likely to get more severe symptoms, and to require medical attention.  

'What we see in this study from a general population is that it’s a graded association. 

'It's not that there is a threshold of “obesity” beyond which the risk suddenly goes up, it looks like the more body fat, the higher the risk of testing positive in a hospital setting.

'[It] indicates that the patient is probably getting symptoms that mean they seek healthcare. So it’s a pretty consistent picture.' 

Dr Welsh added that the paper had not been peer-reviewed by other scientists. It is published on the pre-print site medRxiv. 

He said the link between obesity and COVID-19 was still there after taking into account co-founders such as age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic factors.

Although the data had been collected 10 years ago, Dr Welsh said the information was likely to be the same now.

People tend to stay in rank order over their life course for BMI with only a small proportion changing. 

FAT CELLS ARE A TARGET FOR THE VIRUS, EXPERTS SAY 

The reason why obese people may be more at risk of dying from coronavirus could be because their fat cells make large amounts of a protein used by the infection to infiltrate human cells.

In a 'perspective' paper published in the journal Obesity , the researchers explained the link between obesity and COVID-19 that has emerged.

The coronavirus - scientifically called SARS-CoV-2 - latches onto ACE-2 receptors, known as the 'gateway' into cells inside body.

Dr Ilja Kruglikov of Wellcomet GmbH in Germany, wrote ACE-2 is 'widely expressed' in fat cells called adipocytes in obese people and type 2 diabetics.

Fat might therefore 'serve as a viral reservoir', warned Dr Kruglikov and his colleague Philipp Scherer of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

The scientists also explained that fat cells may drive the production of a type of cell called myofibroblasts.

Myofibroblasts are a major driver of pulmonary fibrosis - scarring of the lung tissue which reduces the organs function and oxygen intake.

Infected patients have been found to have pulmonary fibrosis in their lungs, but it was likely already present before they became ill.

The risk of pulmonary fibrosis, which develops over time, increases with age. It is especially high in people over the age of 65.

The scar tissue can destroy the normal workings of the lungs and make it hard for oxygen to get into the blood, causing shortness of breath.

The presence of pulmonary fibrosis is 'likely to influence the clinical severity of COVID-19', the scientists said.

Some researchers now believe diabetes drugs could be used to fight the infection - and admitted that losing weight may also have a benefit.

The evidence is not concrete but data from hospitalised COVID-19 patients suggests obese people are more likely to die than those who are slim.

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Body mass index (BMI) is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared. 

According to data from NHS hospitals, 75 per cent of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are overweight, compared with 65 per cent in the general

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