According to the CDC the national obesity rate for adults from 2017-18 was 42.4 percent, marking the first time the rate topped 40 percent. Obesity is often associated with other health issues including diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Those underlying health conditions, often referred to as comorbidities, can also make it harder to fight infections of all kinds including COVID-19.
According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes and related health conditions are 12 times more likely to die of COIVD-19 than those without such conditions. Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine discovered white blood cells aren’t as effective in fighting off infections when blood sugar levels are high.
Many of these conditions can be exacerbated or caused by what we eat on a regular basis. “While social distancing and quarantining people are turning to comfort foods which are usually highly processed foods high in fat, sugar, and salt,” said Ashley Hagensick, sports dietitian at Intermountain TOSH. “While those are fine in moderation, consumed on a regular basis can increase inflammation in the body making it harder to fight off illness.”
“You want your body and immune system to be at peak performance any time you’re sick to help fight it off,” said Hagensick. “A poor diet can cause stress on the body making illnesses that much harder to combat.”
Three keys to a healthy diet
1. Moderation: Hagensick says the key to enjoying any food is moderation. It’s how much and how often as well as the choices of food we put on our plates that makes a difference.
2. One step at a time: Those looking to change their current diets should avoid doing every step at once. Hagensick notes people are more likely to stick to their nutrition goals if they make small changes which they can slowly improve on. Such as cutting out one sugary soda week by week, or not using as much creamer in coffee.
3. No dieting: Another important step is not dieting, but rather seeing nutrition as a lifelong change to better habits, not perfection.
Better eating habits can lead to a reduction in chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease while also making those comorbidities more manageable.
While these steps might not be a treatment for the current pandemic we’re in, Hagensick said, “Every step to increase our healthy habits is a good one. Focusing on what we eat can help combat chronic illness and how our body reacts to viruses like COVID-19.”