Obesity biggest controllable factor for COVID-19

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Obesity Biggest Controllable Factor For COVID-19; New Study Shows How to Slash This Second Biggest Killer

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 13, 2020) -  A new study by NYU shows that the biggest controllable factor in determining whether those with COVID-19 need hospital care is obesity, and another recent study shows how we can slash the rate of obesity - which was already the second biggest killer, after smoking, even before coronavirus - says public interest law professor John Banzhaf who helped start a new legal anti-obesity movement in the U.S.

The Single Biggest Controllable Factor

One of the largest studies conducted of COVID-19 infection in the US has found that obesity of patients - as determined by their BMI - was the single biggest controllable factor, after age, in determining whether those with COVID-19 had to be admitted to a hospital.

"The chronic condition with the strongest association with [this] critical illness was obesity, with a substantially higher odds ratio than any cardiovascular or pulmonary disease," concluded the study.

Fortunately, another study has proven how the U.S. can slash its obesity rate, especially among children, by taking the same simple steps which Chile took four years ago.

It showed that a few simple measures have, for example, has slashed consumption of sugary soft drinks - the major source of unnecessary sugar and calories in the diet of most teens - by almost 25%.

"An effect this big at the national level in the first year is unheard-of," said the study's lead author, nutrition epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina.  "It is a very promising sign for a set of policies that mutually reinforce one another. This is the way we need the world to go to begin to really combat preventable diseases like obesity, hypertension and diabetes."

The biggest controllable factor and Government policy

The new policies - which are already being copied in part by Peru, Uruguay, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and other countries - included:

  • Raising the tax on sugary soft drinks from 13% to 18%
  • Advertising restrictions on unhealthy foods,
  • bans on unhealthy food commercials from 6AM to 10PM
  • bold front-of-package black-box warning labels
  • no more cartoons on sugary cereal boxes
  • a ban on junk food food in schools

Another study showed that Chilean children were subjected to half as many ads for junk food and sugary drinks after these restrictions were put in place.

Poor Diet The Leading Cause Of Mortality In The United States

Banzhaf notes that poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, causing more than half a million deaths per year, and that obesity is the second most common cause of death from behavioral risks, with some 400,000 people dying each year of obesity-related illness.

One study has reported that the "total cost of chronic diseases due to obesity and overweight was $1.72 trillion - equivalent to 9.3 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product [GDP]," although other estimates are lower.

Banzhaf also points out that most of this huge cost is paid by people who are not obese, in the form of higher taxes for unnecessary medical expenses under Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, Veterans' and Indian benefits, and other welfare programs, and in grossly inflated health insurance premiums.

Although too many people see the problem of obesity, like the problem of smoking, as one of will power to be overcome by more education, Banzhaf has shown that relying upon education to change unhealthy life styles is ineffective, and well as very expensive, and that using the power of law - statutory requirements, rules and regulations, and law suits - is much more cost efficient.

Banzhaf has been called a "Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars," the lawyer "Who's Leading the Battle Against Big Fat," "The Man Big Tobacco and Now Fast Food Love to Hate," "a Major Crusader Against Big Tobacco and Now Among Those Targeting the Food Industry," "the Ralph Nader of Junk Food," and "The Man Who Is Taking Fat to Court."