Covid-19 lockdowns may escalate obesity epidemic

In an eye-opening study, scientists have warned that locking down society to combat Covid-19 creates psychosocial insecurity that leads to obesity and may escalate the obesity epidemic.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology, rates of obesity may explode because of strategies to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“We are concerned that policymakers do not fully understand how strategies such as lockdowns and business closures could fuel the rise of obesity — a chronic disease with severe health implications, but with few reliable treatment options,” said study researcher Christoffer Clemmensen from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

In a study, the research team outlined how Covid-19 containment strategies could increase rates of obesity.

Firstly, it is well documented that people with limited economic resources are more likely to eat highly-processed and energy-rich food.

These foods have been shown to stimulate people’s appetites so that they end up eating more calories than they need.

“It is likely that more people will turn to these forms of food, as more people lose their jobs and experience economic hardship,” said study co-author Michael Bang Petersen, from the Aarhus University.

Secondly, physical distancing increases anxiety by limiting our ability to socially interact.

Feelings of loneliness and isolation, combined with confinement within a home setting, can impact our food behaviour and lead us to overeat.

This effect is compounded by lower levels of physical activity, as people are urged to work from home and venture out as little as possible.

The research team stressed that they still do not exactly understand how a person’s mental health and economic status end up increasing a person’s risk of developing obesity.

“We know that there are links between obesity and a person’s class and mental health, but we don’t exactly understand how they make an impact,” the study authors wrote.

More research is needed to uncover the cause and effect, but the team said that the scientific expectations are clear — physical distancing and rising rates of unemployment should lead us to expect increased rates of obesity.

“With this in mind, counter-strategies should be considered to ensure that the public remains healthy, happy and active — and also safe from the coronavirus,” the authors wrote.

Also, a study published last month in the European Journal of Endocrinology, revealed that the risk of greater Covid-19 severity and death is higher in people with any obese body mass index (BMI).