The Link Between COVID and Weight

Early research suggests that COVID-19 may attack fat tissue

(RxWiki News) Since the start of the pandemic, excess weight has appeared to be linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes. Now, early research is providing a possible explanation.

A new study found that COVID-19 infects fat cells and immune-related cells inside body fat. This, the study authors said, causes the body to issue a weakened immune response when infected with COVID-19.

And that may explain why people who are overweight or obese have seemed to have worse outcomes from COVID-19 infection.

The infection of the immune cells in body fat appeared to cause a severe inflammatory response, this study found. And the infected fat and immune cells in body fat appeared to be able to dodge the rest of the body's immune response to COVID-19.

When the U.S. and much of the rest of the world continues to see high rates of obesity, that sounds like bad news. But this finding could point scientists to new, more effective COVID treatments.

“Maybe that’s the Achilles’ heel that the virus utilizes to evade our protective immune responses — by hiding in this place,” said Dr. Vishwa Deep Dixit, a professor at Yale School of Medicine who was not involved in the study, in an interview with The New York Times.

To conduct the study, the authors examined fat tissue from people who had not been infected with COVID and those who had died from it. They noted that many conditions that are associated with being overweight or obese, such as type 2 diabetes, could also play a part in worse outcomes for those who are infected with COVID-19.

Talk to your health care provider about how to maintain a healthy weight and avoid COVID-19 infection.

This study was published online in bioRxiv. It has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a reputable scientific journal, so its findings are considered preliminary.

Authors of this study were on advisory boards for bio-tech and pharmaceutical companies, and some have consulted for or received funding from pharmaceutical companies. All of these possible conflicts of interest were declared to be outside of the current study.

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Review Date: 
December 13, 2021