The interconnection of global pandemics -- Obesity, impaired metabolic health and COVID-19

January 21, 2021

In a Nature Reviews Endocrinology article authors from the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) highlight the interconnection of obesity and impaired metabolic health with the severity of COVID-19. First, they provide information about the independent relationships of obesity, disproportionate fat distribution and impaired metabolic health with the severity of COVID-19. Then they discuss mechanisms for a complicated course of COVID-19 and how this disease may impact on the global obesity and cardiometabolic pandemics. Finally, they provide recommendations for prevention and treatment in clinical practice and in the public health sector to combat these global pandemics.

Norbert Stefan, Andreas Birkenfeld and Matthias Schulze summarize and discuss data from large and well-performed studies that investigated independent relationships of obesity with the severity of COVID-19. Thereby, they can disentangle the contribution of obesity, visceral fatness and impaired metabolic health for the course of COVID-19. In this respect they found convincing evidence that obesity and overt diabetes, but also visceral obesity and even mild hyperglycemia, represent important risk factors for the disease course. Thus, these risk factors most probably may have an additive effect on the severity of COVID-19.

Then they discuss the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 infection on organ function, focusing on the cardiometabolically relevant tissues and organs as the vessel wall, heart, kidneys, liver, gut and pancreas. Thereby, they address both, the immediate damage of COVID-19 to the organs and the long-term effects of the disease, most probably boosting the development of obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. Thus, obesity and cardiometabolic diseases do not only trigger a more severe course of COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 infection does promote the development of these conditions.

The authors further highlight how treatment of obesity and impaired cardiometabolic health helps to avert a severe COVID-19 in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. In this respect health professionals and politicians should now, more than ever, promote the health benefits of physical activity and support efforts to implement programmes and policies to facilitate increased physical activity and to promote a healthy diet. This might not only be relevant to directly reduce the burden of COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality among those infected, but may also be important in the context of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, where response should be carefully evaluated in patients with obesity and/or diabetes mellitus, because of a potentially reduced or shortened response.

Stefan N, Birkenfeld AL, Schulze MB. Global pandemics interconnected - obesity, impaired metabolic health and COVID-19. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2021,


Prof. Norbert Stefan
German Center for Diabetes Research
Department of Internal Medicine IV
Tübingen University Hospital
Otfried-Müller-Str. 10, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
Phone: +49 (0)7071 29-80390

The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) is one of six German Centers for Health Research. It brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and integrates basic research, epidemiology, and clinical applications. By adopting an innovative, integrative approach to research, the DZD aims to make a substantial contribution to the successful personalized prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus. The members of the DZD are Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, the German Diabetes Center (DDZ) in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, the Institute of Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the University of Tübingen, the Paul Langerhans Institute Dresden of Helmholtz Zentrum München at the Carl Gustav Carus University Hospital of TU Dresden, associated partners at the universities in Heidelberg, Cologne, Leipzig, Lübeck and Munich, and other project partners.

Deutsches Zentrum fuer Diabetesforschung DZD

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to