Overweight in Covid times?

Here are the facts and what you can do

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues its devastation across South Africa, we are learning more about how the virus manifests in people and who is most at risk of reacting badly, so we’ve summarized this information in a way that is easy to understand. Our team have also put a few tips together regarding how you can protect yourself. 

It has been confirmed that certain co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension may increase one’s risk of contracting a more serious level of Covid-19. Unfortunately, obesity is also one of the factors that can put you at a higher risk. A study covered by Health 24 explained that obese patients with Covid-19 may have nearly three times the risk of developing what is known as a pulmonary embolism (a blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in your lungs). 

However, new research published International Journal of Obesity, explains that obesity could be a double whammy. Not only are you likely to suffer more serious or even fatal consequences from Covid-19, but you are also likely to be hospitalised for longer – which could lead to further complications later on.

So, what exactly counts as ‘being obese’?

Obesity is defined as a medical condition where a person carries excess weight or body fat that may affect their health and increase their risk for chronic conditions such as hypertension or diabetes. While some medical experts and scientists have mentioned that this method isn’t always accurate, many medical guidelines still rely on the so-called Body Mass Index (BMI), where both your height and weight are taken into account – a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is overweight and if it’s 30 or more, you’re defined as obese.

According to research, good health is not necessarily determined by your BMI, but more by fat distribution – in other words, where your body fat is located. Excess stomach fat (visceral fat) close to the organs, for example, is considered more dangerous than fat in the lower body. But in the meantime, BMI is still used as the main gauge for healthy weight. 

Let’s understand the complications that obese Covid-19 patients face with their liver function. A study has confirmed that abnormal liver function in obese Covid-19 patients contributes to a longer stay in hospital. According to the authors, liver damage during Covid-19 infection in these patients could lead to a worse prognosis than other patients. They included 58 patients (22 women and 36 men) who were diagnosed with Covid-19, all with a BMI higher than 24, thus identifying them as overweight to obese. It was found that hospital stay was longer for those who were overweight or obese, and that extra attention and precautions were needed during their clinical treatments.

The effects of being hospitalised for longer are worth understanding as this is not as simple as it sounds. Hospitalization is meant to help patients fight Covid-19, but a prolonged hospital stay can have far-reaching effects on patients, which can further impact your future health. 

While not all obese patients with Covid-19 may be intubated or require respiratory assistance, the longer their stay in hospital, the more likely they are to have a harder time completely recovering from Covid-19 and experience a sort of “post-traumatic stress syndrome” long after being discharged.  

With so many ways to determine your health, it’s important to realise that everyone’s body composition is unique. If you’re concerned about your current weight and health, your best course of action is to consult your doctor or a dietitian for a personalised health assessment so that you can follow an eating plan and exercise routine that is right for you. 

Here are some steps  that are recommended by doctors, to protect yourself if you are overweight or obese:

  1. Take physical distancing measures seriously and stay at home as much as possible.
  2. Wear a face mask to lower your risk of contracting Covid-19.
  3. Practice stringent hand hygiene to avoid infection. 
  4. Recalibrate your eating and exercise plan. Don’t focus on appearance but focus on your overall health to protect you against Covid-19. Start with small, realistic changes such as eating fresh, healthy food according to what your DNA requires. 
  5. Instead of giving in to crash diets and fad solutions, invest in wellness programmes and products that provide you with personalized information as each person’s body is unique.
  6. Boost your immune system with nutritional supplements that are known to benefit the body in this way. 

The Geneway DNA tests provide actionable information regarding your health, diet, exercise and immune system. Eating according to one’s DNA has proven to be an effective way to reach a healthy BMI. Additionally, the new Gene-Immune test helps you understand your immune system and what it needs to function optimally. 


Doing one of these tests will equip you to make changes according to your unique genetic make-up and live a healthier, more sustainable life. For more information, and to read about how Geneway’s DNA tests work, go to https://geneway.co.za/  

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