Belly Fat Increases Your Risk for COVID-19 ICU Admission |
What You Can Do About It

Belly fat may increase your risk of severe complications from Covid-19. Learn why and get four tips for losing belly fat.

9.4 min read
Belly Fat and Covid-19

Luckily, there’s something you can do about it. Even a few simple changes in your daily routine could alter the amount of visceral fat (belly fat) around your midsection, reducing your risk of severe complications from COVID-19 and other chronic diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. There’s never been a better time to start living healthier and lose weight. You’ve got this!

How Belly Fat Puts You at Higher Risk for COVID-19

Obesity among adults in America is increasing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is a well recognized risk factor for diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, all of which are predictors of poor outcomes in COVID-19. Here is how obesity puts you at higher risk ICU Admission from COVID-19, in particular, how excess belly fat (visceral fat) negatively impacts health outcomes:

  • Obesity is linked to impaired immune function reducing the body’s ability to fight off a COVID-19 infection.
  • Lung capacity and reserve are decreased in obese patients making ventilation more difficult.
  • Belly fat (visceral fat) expresses a greater number of receptors for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) than other body fat, called subcutaneous fat.

Why Overweight People are at Higher Risk for Severe Complications from COVID-19

Where your body stores fat appears to determine whether you are at higher risk, according to researchers. The fat that accumulates around your organs is called visceral fat, or at times called belly fat, or the proverbial ‘beer belly’. Studies show people with belly fat have a greater risk of ICU admission for COVID-19. According to researchers in France, people with a waist circumference greater than 49 inches (125 cm) were more likely to suffer more severely from COVID-19. In the scientific journal, Metabolism, German researchers reported that if you become infected with COVID-19, for every additional 0.4 inches (1 cm) circumference around your belly, you are 1.1 times more likely of needing ICU treatment and 1.2 times likely to need mechanical ventilation. The problem is that the virus SARS-CoV-2, more commonly called COVID-19, gains access to cells by binding to a type of receptor called ACE2. Visceral fat expresses a greater number of these COVID-19 receptors than the lung. As such, excess body weight can drive greater infection severity. As researchers dig more into this interaction and whether any known medicines could target this interaction to improve disease outcomes, you can take matters into your own hands. You can take positive action! Lose belly fat to reduce your risk of chronic disease, while potentially improving your chance of avoiding ICU admission and mechanical ventilation from COVID-19.

How to Lose Belly Fat

According to Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center, “Within a few days of adopting a healthier lifestyle, it is possible to see positive changes in your body, that includes fat loss. Belly fat is slow to come off, but keep with your healthy lifestyle (good foods, regular physical activity, and a positive mindset) and it will come off.” Here’s how to lose belly fat:

4 Ways to Reduce Belly Fat

1. Be active
2. Get more sleep
3. Eat healthier
4. Manage stress

1. | Be Active

Researchers are noticing regular exercise boosts the immune system. Moving your body every day can also help prevent weight gain. Fitting in more physical activity to your day helps you sleep better, cope with stress, and reduce anxiety. Staying active doesn’t require a gym membership or hours of strenuous exercise. A 20-30 minute walk every evening after dinner can improve your health.

2. | Get More Sleep

Most adults do not get enough sleep to promote health. Insufficient sleep has been linked to chronic illnesses, poor work performance, and depression.

3. | Eat Healthier

Eating lots of plant foods is a healthy choice, particularly if you eat over 800g/day, says experts. In a 2-year study, following the diets of 624 people, researchers found eating more soluble dietary fiber, manganese, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, folic acid, and pantothenic acid, which are abundant components in vegetable diets, was significantly related to a drop in visceral fat. In other words, the researchers concluded that a diet rich in vegetables may decrease belly fat. “If weight loss is your goal, the largest component of your meal should be vegetable…we want the vegetable to be the star of the show, as it lowers the density of your food for the day,” explains Kimberly Gomer, the Pritikin Center’s Director of Nutrition, where eating lots of plant-based whole foods is a part of their delicious, filling program. You can start today! Eat lots of fruits and vegetables (particularly apples, pears, citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and salads), as scientific evidence shows it can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and death.

4. | Manage Stress

A pandemic creates a dramatic increase in stress: fears for your health, financial security, alterations to lifestyle and schedule, and feelings of loneliness from social distancing. The stress of a pandemic can drive one to eat and drink more, behaviors that promote weight gain, can alter sleep patterns, and worsen chronic health problems.

Is the COVID-19 Pandemic Making Me Weight Gain?

With many Americans staying at home with workplaces and gyms closed, experts are warning these conditions can promote weight gain. Not a vacation or holiday by any means, but the pandemic’s stay at home conditions are similar in that it causes us to deviate from our usual routines. Research shows that even short periods of time away from a schedule, which includes physical activity and regular eating patterns, can lead to weight gain. Those who are overweight or have excess belly fat are at greater risk of weight gain during these changes in routine. Of note, regular exercisers are not protected from weight gain as the routine change can cause a sudden change in energy expenditure. “How much you can pinch around the middle matters more than the scale,” notes Dr. Fruge, Director of Medicine at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa. Some people assume it is normal to have belly fat. Jokingly described as ‘the middle-age spread’, the ‘Dad-bod’, or the ‘spare tire’, excess belly fat is no laughing matter. Obesity puts you at higher risk for COVID-19 ICU admission and mechanical ventilation, as well as liver and renal problems, diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome.

How to Lose Belly Fat Quickly

You can lose belly fat and reverse many of the related health conditions. “Most people don’t know how, so they don’t try,” explains Dr. Fruge. “But, many health conditions, like metabolic syndrome, are reversible.” You can take control of your health! With a few alterations to the way you move during the day, some new shopping and healthy kitchen tricks, and a slight shift in perspective can create an astounding change in your health.

Following the Pritikin Program has been effective in reducing belly fat, improving blood sugar levels, lowering high blood pressure and high cholesterol in thousands of patients worldwide. More than 100 published studies prove Pritikin can help you improve your health. Start living healthier, today.


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Are you taking or considering a medication for weight loss?

By combining the Pritikin Program with Ozempic, Wegovy, or ZepBound, you can safely accelerate weight loss, reduce side effects, preserve lean body mass, and enhance long-term metabolic health for optimal success.