Boston researchers studying obesity and COVID-19 link – WCVB Boston


Posted: July 7, 2020 at 5:57 pm

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says obesity is a risk factor for developing severe illness from COVID-19. That warning includes young people, too. To address it, one Boston doctor is leading a study to understand why and urging everyone to remember that obesity is also a disease."I like to change the narrative. Yes, obesity is a disease," said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. For years, she's worked to educate people about the disease of obesity. While there are dozens of factors at play, genetics does have an impact."Weight is more heritable than height. If you have two parents with obesity unfortunately, the likelihood that you will indeed suffer that same fate is very high," Stanford said.According to the most recent CDC data, 42% of U.S. adults have obesity. Of that group, 49% are Black, 44% Hispanic and 42% white. Last month, the agency revised its guidance on having obesity as a risk factor for COVID-19."Obesity has emerged as one of the major risk factors for morbidity, sickness with COVID-19 and mortality. We've seen disproportionate impact in communities of color where we do know obesity rates are higher. So that inflammation that's caused by the obesity is predisposing poorer outcomes," Stanford said.She and two colleagues are now studying the reasons why by looking at severity of disease among COVID patients who have obesity and also when they present with illness. They hope to develop a risk score that could help physicians assess these patients.In the meantime, Stanford believes society needs to change how it thinks about obesity and she's not the only one."One size does not fit all when it comes to dealing with obesity," said Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth, a non-profit working towards an improved approach to obesity, one based on science and people."We tend to think of obesity as who you are rather than a condition that you live with," Kyle said.He said this situation is changing. There are more physicians now trained in obesity medicine and the public is getting the message that blame and shame doesn't help. It's something Stanford is working towards, as well."When we're talking to patients that have or persons or friends that have obesity, be very respectful. They are often struggling in ways that you have no idea," Stanford said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says obesity is a risk factor for developing severe illness from COVID-19. That warning includes young people, too. To address it, one Boston doctor is leading a study to understand why and urging everyone to remember that obesity is also a disease.

"I like to change the narrative. Yes, obesity is a disease," said Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

For years, she's worked to educate people about the disease of obesity. While there are dozens of factors at play, genetics does have an impact.

"Weight is more heritable than height. If you have two parents with obesity unfortunately, the likelihood that you will indeed suffer that same fate is very high," Stanford said.

According to the most recent CDC data, 42% of U.S. adults have obesity. Of that group, 49% are Black, 44% Hispanic and 42% white.

Last month, the agency revised its guidance on having obesity as a risk factor for COVID-19.

"Obesity has emerged as one of the major risk factors for morbidity, sickness with COVID-19 and mortality. We've seen disproportionate impact in communities of color where we do know obesity rates are higher. So that inflammation that's caused by the obesity is predisposing poorer outcomes," Stanford said.

She and two colleagues are now studying the reasons why by looking at severity of disease among COVID patients who have obesity and also when they present with illness. They hope to develop a risk score that could help physicians assess these patients.

In the meantime, Stanford believes society needs to change how it thinks about obesity and she's not the only one.

"One size does not fit all when it comes to dealing with obesity," said Ted Kyle, founder of ConscienHealth, a non-profit working towards an improved approach to obesity, one based on science and people.

"We tend to think of obesity as who you are rather than a condition that you live with," Kyle said.

He said this situation is changing. There are more physicians now trained in obesity medicine and the public is getting the message that blame and shame doesn't help. It's something Stanford is working towards, as well.

"When we're talking to patients that have or persons or friends that have obesity, be very respectful. They are often struggling in ways that you have no idea," Stanford said.

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Boston researchers studying obesity and COVID-19 link - WCVB Boston

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