Food industry fallout: COVID-19 linked to the obesity epidemic

Food industry fallout: COVID-19 linked to the obesity epidemic
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(NaturalHealth365) Should the food industry share the blame for the increased mortality from COVID-19? Public health experts think so. In a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal, researchers argue that COVID-19 “is yet one more health problem exacerbated by the obesity epidemic” and they’re calling on governments around the world to enforce measures to restrict the food industry’s promotion of unhealthy foods.

Mounting evidence suggests that overweight and obese people are at a greater risk of developing a life threatening infection of COVID-19. In fact, one study found that being overweight increased the risk by 44 percent, while being obese increased the risk by 97 percent.

According to John Hopkins University, a higher body mass index is linked to more severe cases of COVID-19 and is a significant pre-existing condition in younger patients. Unlike other risk factors identified with COVID-19 such as age, sex, and ethnicity, being overweight or obese is a modifiable factor.

Beware: The food industry is selling sickening food for profits

In 2016, 1.9 billion people worldwide were overweight or obese, and that number is rapidly rising. Cheap, sugar-sweetened beverages and ultra-processed foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat are the cornerstone of the food industry, which makes it difficult not to overconsume unnecessary calories.

In the battle against obesity and the health problems associated with it – diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, bone density issues – countries and cities around the world have imposed “soda taxes.”  The evidence is clear, however, that the global soda tax experiment is a failure.

A soda tax isn’t a nutrition lesson, and the world’s unhealthy obsession with sugar (a 2012 study found that almost half of Americans drink soda at least once a day) won’t be modified with a tax.

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Researchers at the British Medical Journal even suggested the food industry was using the coronavirus outbreak as a marketing opportunity, citing Krispy Creme’s “Serving Smiles” initiative in the United Kingdom. The company donated half a million donuts to frontline workers.

The BMJ editorial is calling for a ban on ads and a reformulation of processed food.

Is now the time for a massive public health campaign?

It goes without saying that the food industry doesn’t want to share any responsibility for the increased mortality rate from COVID-19, and in its attempt to spin the narrative have accused public health officials of “pointing fingers” without all the evidence. What can’t be spun, however, is the fact that the food industry has “normalized” ultra-processed junk food, leaving millions of people vulnerable to obesity and other health issues.

As poor diet “is the primary biological factor driving increased COVID-19 death rates,” the obesity epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic are  interlocked. Would a massive public health campaign change worldwide eating habits, or, like the sugar tax, would it fail to put a dent in obesity?

How many lives would have been saved during the pandemic if people had only eaten healthier? How do you change the eating habits of a globe hooked on junk food?  No doubt, these are very important questions that need to be answered.

Sources for this article include:

BMJ.com