COVID-19 and obesity: What you need to know | Inquirer Lifestyle
COVID-19 Obesity

COVID-19 and obesity: What you need to know

Currently, the Department of Health lists 11 possible health conditions that qualify afflicted individuals for immediate vaccination against COVID-19. Among these conditions include hypertension, both forms of diabetes, and all types of cancer. Another condition made it to the list, that is obesity — not as popular to many but is critically important yet overlooked. 

Obesity and COVID-19

The onslaught of the COVID-19 virus has significantly changed the course of healthcare management. For chronic diseases such as obesity, it became both a challenge and at the same time, an opportunity to be identified due its vulnerability to the virus. Globally, around 22% of people have reported a weight gain of between five and ten pounds since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, according to the National Institutes of Health. Causes for this widespread weight gain are varied, according to the WHO: the inability to walk anywhere, lack of access to gyms and sports facilities, and uncontrolled snacking as a way to manage stress and anxiety have all contributed to so many people gaining weight. As a result, individuals who were once more fit are now overweight, while overweight individuals becomes persons with obesity.

This poses serious implications in the context of the pandemic for persons who are living with obesity. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that individuals who have obesity are at far greater risk of severe symptoms from COVID-19, should they contract the disease. Patients with obesity often have depressed lung capacity, making ventilation more difficult and further suppressing blood oxygenation levels. Most alarmingly, having obesity triples the likelihood of the need for hospitalization due to COVID-19.

According to a study done by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI), in Metro Manila alone, an estimated 9.6% of adults between the ages of 20 and 59 are said to have a body mass index (BMI) in excess of 30%, the clinical definition of obesity. This figure translates into more than 700,000 Filipinos who are at risk for serious health complications down the line, including cirrhosis of the liver, compromised kidney function, and heart disease. At the same time, individuals who struggle with managing obesity also often have suppressed immune systems, making them more susceptible to infections. This highlights the need to provide these individuals with immediate vaccination services in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

What Happens When Someone has Obesity

In 2016, an estimated 1.6 billion people were considered obese, and given the recent events, this number is likely to have risen significantly. According to the World Health Organization, obesity is the abnormal accumulation of fat on a person’s body. From a biometric standpoint, fat accumulation is measured using BMI, which is expressed as a percentage of an individual’s body weight that is made up of fat; those who have a BMI in excess of 25% are considered overweight, while those whose BMI exceeds 30% are said to be obese. 

So What Do We Do?

The best way to fight obesity, whether during the pandemic or not, is to prevent it. 

  • Eat a diet rich in fiber, fruits, and vegetables, and stay away from foods that are very fatty, sugary, or both. 
  • Engage in regular strenuous exercise for at least two hours a week.
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep. Sleep purges the body of stress hormones that could increase the temptation to snack excessively.
  • If you’re experiencing anxiety or depression, seek professional help from a psychiatrist or trained mental health professional, rather than attempting to manage it yourself.
  • If you already have obesity, consult with a doctor about how you can work towards getting your weight to more healthy levels. 

Please follow The Body of Truth page on Facebook (, an initiative pioneered by Novo Nordisk Philippines that aims to provide helpful information on obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle, with useful tips from reliable fitness, health and medical professionals. The Body of Truth, an online hub launched early this year, will serve as a valuable resource for staying up to date on the latest facts about personal weight management, with helpful tips on exercise, diet, and more.

*For more information on obesity and its management, visit