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Boris Johnson drawing plans to put UK on obesity-busting diet to fight COVID-19

Boris Johnson was diagnosed with COVID-19 last year.

Among other measures to counter obesity, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is likely to promote wider use of bariatric surgery to reduce the impact of COVID-19.

Written by Longjam Dineshwori |Published : June 29, 2020 12:20 PM IST

Several studies have identified obesity as a major risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection. Current infection data also suggests that a high proportion of COVID-19 patients who were admitted to the intensive care units were overweight or obese. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized due to the deadly virus back in April, also believes that losing weight would be the best thing overweight people can do to beat the novel coronavirus.

The 56-year-old leader, who is on a slimming regime himself, is planning to put the country on a diet as part of a wider strategy to counter obesity. As per media reports, he is expected to come out with plans by next month to increase fitness levels across the nation by encouraging people to eat more healthily and do more exercise.

According to the Sunday Times, the UK's health department has submitted a series of proposals to No. 10 Downing Street as part of the strategy. Possible measures to be taken up include family exercise schemes, increasing the number of outdoor gyms, promoting a healthy diet as well as bariatric surgery, which may involve the fitting of gastric bands. The UK PM is also apparently planning to put a ban on price promotions such as "buy one, get one free" offers, and unlimited refills on unhealthy foods and drinks. In addition, he is likely to bring in legislation to mandate calorie labeling for restaurants, caf , and takeaways.

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How obesity increases COVID-19 risk

Several experts have highlighted Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease as the major risk factors for COVID-19 infection. People who have these medical conditions are not only more susceptible to COVID-19 infection, but they are also at higher risk for developing severe illness from the infection and succumb to it. And these conditions are rooted in excess body fat, that is they often co-exist with obesity. Studies have also cited obesity as one of the major risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection, even in those below 60 years. A study in France found that a large number of COVID-19 patients who needed mechanical ventilation were obese. The study also revealed that the risk of infection increases with increasing obesity. Estimates suggest that more than 60 per cent of adults in the UK and US are overweight or obese.

Since India has a very high prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, the country's population is particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus infection, opined some experts.

Diet and other ways to counter obesity

To combat obesity and reduce the threat from the deadly virus, experts recommend that people should give up ultra-processed and packaged foods. They also suggest replacing refined carbohydrates with wholefoods such as vegetables and fruits. Here are a other lifestyle changes that you should follow to bring your weight into a healthier range.

  • Cut sugar and saturated fats
  • Plan your meals ahead to make better food choices, and be aware of what you eat at every meal.
  • Keeping a food journal to keep a track of what eat you eat in a day.
  • Exercise regularly. Not only it can help in weight loss, but also improve your mental health.

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