Why What We Eat Matters

With stunning speed, the novel Coronavirus has killed more than 56,000 people living in the United States so far this year. Though most of the more than 1 million known to be infected do not become seriously ill (many do not even show symptoms), those who are hardest hit often suffer frighteningly rapid declines.

As scientists struggle to understand the overall magnitude of the virus and how to best address it, there are certain established truths that we can no longer afford to take for granted when it comes to protecting our health in the future. One key truth: the quality of our food is essential to the quality of our health. The food choices we make every day have a profound long-term impact on virtually every aspect of our well-being. And, as medical  professionals track the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly clear just how much that matters in times like these.

Roughly half of the people who have been hospitalized with the new virus are obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says those individuals who are obese are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Obesity, scientists know, is a diet-driven condition that contributes to many other serious health problems. Being overweight is strongly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, for instance. Thus it is not surprising that the CDC has found, along with the 48 percent of the COVID-19 victims who are obese, 28 percent of those hospitalized with the virus have diabetes.

The following FAQ section is via the American Diabetes Association:

Q: Are people with diabetes more likely to get COVID-19?

A: People with diabetes are not more likely to get COVID-19 than the general population. The problem people with diabetes face is primarily a problem of worse outcomes, not greater chance of contracting the virus. In China, where most cases have occurred so far, people with diabetes had much higher rates of serious complications and death than people without diabetes—and generally we believe that the more health conditions someone has (for example, diabetes and heart disease), the higher their chance of getting serious complications from COVID-19. While the death toll is likely to rise as the virus spreads, we expect the death rate—the number of people who die from the virus as a percentage of the total number of people who contract the virus—to go down as we get better at detecting and treating this specific virus.

Q: Do people with diabetes have a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19?

A: People with diabetes do face a higher chance of experiencing serious complications from COVID-19. In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus.

Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely to be lower if your diabetes is well-managed. When people with diabetes do not manage their diabetes well and experience fluctuating blood sugars, they are generally at risk for a number of diabetes-related complications. Having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID-19, like other viral infections, because your body’s ability to fight off an infection is compromised.

Viral infections can also increase inflammation, or internal swelling, in people with diabetes. This is also caused by above-target blood sugars, and both could contribute to more severe complications.

Q: Do I need to worry about DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis)?

When sick with a viral infection, people with diabetes do face an increased risk of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), commonly experienced by people with type 1 diabetes.

DKA can make it challenging to manage your fluid intake and electrolyte levels—which is important in managing sepsis. Sepsis and septic shock are some of the more serious complications that some people with COVID-19 have experienced.

If your blood sugar has registered high (greater than 240 mg/dl) more than 2 times in a row, check for ketones to avoid DKA.

Q: Are the risks different for people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

A: In general, we don’t know of any reason to think COVID-19 will pose a difference in risk between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. More important is that people with either type of diabetes vary in their age, complications and how well they have been managing their diabetes.

People who already have diabetes-related health problems are likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 than people with diabetes who are otherwise healthy, whichever type of diabetes they have.

Q: What should I do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in my home—and what do I do if someone in my household has the virus?

A: For people with underlying health conditions, including diabetes, healthy family members in the household should conduct themselves as if they were a significant risk to them. For example, they should be sure to wash their hands before feeding or caring for them. If possible, a protected space should be made available for vulnerable household members, and all utensils and surfaces should be cleaned regularly.

If a member of your household is sick, be sure to give them their own room, if possible, and keep the door closed. Have only one family member care for them, and consider providing additional protections or more intensive care for household members over 65 years old or with underlying health  conditions.

Q: Will COVID-19 impact my access to insulin and other diabetes supplies?

A: Leading manufacturers are reporting that COVID-19 is not having an impact on their current manufacturing and distribution capabilities for insulin and other supplies at this time. We are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates should anything change. If you are struggling to pay for insulin or know someone who is, the ADA has resources to help—visit InsulinHelp.org.

We believe in making healthy, lifelong changes to your daily eating and exercise patterns. Physician’s Weight Control & Wellness’s programs are different from other weight loss programs in that they are specifically constructed by bariatric specialists to meet each patient’s individual needs based on their body chemistry, lifestyle, and weight loss goals. Our individualized programs focus on providing positive alternatives to unhealthy habits and targeting foods which provide your body with the specific nutrients it needs for optimal energy and fat metabolism. Practical exercise and hydration are also implemented into our overall program.

We encourage you to become a part of our successful weight loss program. We offer 50 years of safety, experience, knowledge and expertise found nowhere else!

Contact us with any questions about Physician’s Weight Control & Wellness Center and how we can help you in your journey to better health.

Photo by Kate on Unsplash