Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and COVID 19

The global scientific community is currently concentrating on two solutions for COVID-19, a vaccine and accurate antigen testing. Scientific sources are also showing the role that obesity and metabolic health can play in the risk of the onset of severe COVID-19 symptoms that may lead to hospital care ( Ryan et al., 2020). We must remember that long before this pandemic, we have known that having obesity increases the risk of many different conditions including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. There is nothing that will stop us getting COVID-19, with no way to tell how it will affect each individual (irrespective of someone’s health status), but as Nutritional Therapists we help people to cut through the noise and manage risk factors and optimise their health.

Due to the release of data around obesity and COVID-19, recent headlines have tried to provoke a ‘war on fat’. However headlines and such a narrative are unhelpful and can in fact be toxic and harmful. Obesity is complex – genetics, stress, economic factors, sleep deprivation, commuting, shift work as well as many other factors contribute to the struggle of weight gain and make weight loss challenging. It takes time and energy to change one’s lifestyle and cooking habits – often a complete change in mindset occurs. I have worked with individuals that have made some amazing changes that will help them as they progress through life.

So what is Metabolic Syndrome and how does it impact COVID-19? Metabolic syndrome is a common metabolic disorder that results from obesity. It is defined as a cluster of conditions which increase the risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and excess weight, often with high cholesterol or triglyceride levels. The fundamental nutritional therapeutic approach to metabolic syndrome is weight control and increased physical activity along with other various lifestyle and possible supplemental protocols which are individual to each client. The good news here is that we can reverse weight gain and control related conditions.

Viral flu which occurs seasonally each year has long been a risk factor for those with metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes in particular being a major risk factor. A recent study from China involving 46,248 patients showed that the most prevalent condition in people infected by COVID-19 was high blood pressure followed by diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases. In a group of 54 critically ill patients admitted with ‘COVID-19 pneumonia’ in China, 44.4%, 24.1% and 14.8% patients had pre-existing hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease, respectively (Dutta et al., March 2020). This is not shared to frighten, but to inform – we can only make decisions about our own health when we know facts, what we do next remains up to us.

We are learning more and more about COVID-19 each day, with so much research to digest and analyse every day, and there is no way of knowing (yet) what kind of immunity people have if they have been infected. It looks likely that if COVID-19 follows the pattern of other coronaviruses then it may become a recurrent, seasonal event (Kissler et al., 2020). ‘Coronaviruses’ as a group cover a wide-range of illnesses stretching from the common cold, which has little to no long-term immunity, to SARS-CoV and MER-CoV, which  has only shown medium-term immunity. A study undertaken in 2020 estimated that the SARS-CoV immunity lasted for up to 2 years. An increasingly supported theory following current research, is that the more severe the case of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), the stronger the immunity, with very mild cases conferring little to no immunity at all. We can only wait and see what developments from the ongoing research.

The message continues to be that regardless of COVID-19, being healthy in body and mind it the kindest thing we can do for ourselves. Those worried about Metabolic Syndrome can get in touch to see how Nutritional Therapy can help them live healthier lives as they migrate their way through the new normal.



  • COVID-19 AND METABOLIC SYNDROME – AN, 2019; Ryan et al., 2020
  • Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period – Kissler et al. 2020