Global pandemics interconnected — obesity, impaired metabolic health and COVID-19

Norbert Stefan*, Andreas L. Birkenfeld, Matthias B. Schulze

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

313 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Obesity and impaired metabolic health are established risk factors for the non-communicable diseases (NCDs) type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, otherwise known as metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). With the worldwide spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), obesity and impaired metabolic health also emerged as important determinants of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Furthermore, novel findings indicate that specifically visceral obesity and characteristics of impaired metabolic health such as hyperglycaemia, hypertension and subclinical inflammation are associated with a high risk of severe COVID-19. In this Review, we highlight how obesity and impaired metabolic health increase complications and mortality in COVID-19. We also summarize the consequences of SARS-CoV-2 infection for organ function and risk of NCDs. In addition, we discuss data indicating that the COVID-19 pandemic could have serious consequences for the obesity epidemic. As obesity and impaired metabolic health are both accelerators and consequences of severe COVID-19, and might adversely influence the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, we propose strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity and impaired metabolic health on a clinical and population level, particularly while the COVID-19 pandemic is present.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-149
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Endocrinology
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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