Coronavirus: Could This Be Why More Americans Are Dying?

In All Health Watch, Coronavirus, Diet and Nutrition, Featured Article, Fitness and Exercise, Health Warning

The U.S. has the highest obesity rate by far of any developed country. The vast majority of Americans—nearly three-quarters of us—are either obese or overweight.

This would be a major health crisis in the best of times. But during the coronavirus pandemic, it is proving to be even more deadly.

Four recent studies show that obesity may be the single greatest risk factor other than age for having a severe case of COVID-19 or dying of it.

The studies were assessed by researchers in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology.[1]

It started with data from the beginning of the outbreak in China. Doctors there found that obese coronavirus patients had a 142% higher risk of developing severe pneumonia.

A study in New York city followed. Researchers looked at 4,103 COVID-19 patients. Obesity increased the chances of hospitalization more than any other risk factor except for age.

Next was a Seattle study. Researchers found 85% of critically ill obese patients needed to be put on a ventilator. But just 64% of critical non-obese patients required it. Sixty-two percent of the obese patients died, compared to 36% of non-obese patients.

Lastly, research in Lille, France, looked at 124 patients. Those who were obese were more likely to need a ventilator.

Dr. Norbert Stefan was the lead author of the analysis. He said that obesity “may put people infected with the novel coronavirus at a very high risk for a more severe COVID-19 illness and possibly risk of death.”[2]

Why does obesity make COVID-19 worse?

Dr. Stefan and his co-authors think it may be because obese people have weaker respiratory muscles. They have smaller lung volume and higher resistance in their airways. All these factors put more stress on the heart and raise the risk of pneumonia.

The illnesses that often accompany obesity may play a part as well. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can make you more susceptible to infection.

Dr. Stefan said data is emerging showing that high blood sugar, even just in the prediabetic range, “is a strong and independent predictor of a severe course of COVID-19.”

To Lose Weight, Use the Clock Not the Scale

It’s more important than ever to maintain a healthy body weight. But anybody who has tried to lose weight can tell you how difficult it is.

Dieting certainly isn’t the answer. A UCLA study found that people who go on a diet are more likely to gain weight in the long term than lose it.

A study published in the journal Cell Metabolism shows there’s a better way. Unlike dieting, you can eat as much you want. Nor do you have to give up your favorite foods.

Scientists had overweight, prediabetic people do all their daily eating during a span of just over 10 hours.

It didn’t matter when they started eating, as long as they had their last food of the day about 10 hours later. In other words, if you start eating breakfast at 9 a.m., you need to finish eating dinner by 7 p.m.[3]

This is called time-restricted eating (TRE). The practice is becoming a popular way not only to lose weight, but to improve health in other ways.

After 12 weeks, the study participants had lost 3% of their body weight on average. They lost 3% of their belly fat and reported getting better sleep. Also, the subjects’ blood pressure and cholesterol readings improved. Their fasting blood sugar levels dropped.

Some were able to lower the doses of their blood pressure or cholesterol medications…or stop taking them altogether.

Here’s how to do TRE:

Ease into it. Start by eating breakfast 15 minutes later than usual. And have dinner 15 minutes earlier. Each week, shorten your eating window by a half hour by eating breakfast 15 minutes later and dinner 15 minutes earlier.

Stop reducing your eating window when it is at 10 hours. In some studies, people have more success with an eight or nine-hour window. But this can be difficult to maintain.

You may find it easier if you eat more protein and fewer carbs. You’ll stay fuller longer. Good protein sources include organic eggs, beef, poultry, and wild-caught fish.

One more thing…

Don’t get discouraged if you slip up. If you eat outside your window, simply try to maintain your schedule the next day.

After a few weeks you should start to see results. You’ll not only look and feel better…but your slimmer body could support your health in the time of coronavirus.

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