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By Vanessa Henning, Nutritional Therapist

As our waistlines expand, so too does the incidence of diabetes.

Other coronaviral epidemics had shown that a person with pre-existing Type 2 Diabetes is more vulnerable and results in worsened outcomes, and COVID-19 appears to be no different. A retrospective study from China revealed COVID-19 patients with Type 2 Diabetes had increased need for medical interventions and increased mortality risk.

Interestingly, research reveals that blood glucose control proved to be significant and was associated with improved outcomes in infected Type 2 Diabetes patients.

Obesity poses a significant increased risk of infection and mortality, with statistics suggesting its presence in nearly half of hospitalized or deceased COVID-19 patients.

It has become clear that metabolic health, an umbrella term referring to blood sugar levels, cholesterol and triglycerides levels, blood pressure, weight and waist circumference plays a role in infection rates, complications and outcomes.

The bad news?

A report by researchers from the University of Minnesota Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) suggests that for the pandemic to run its course, 60-70% of the population will need to be exposed to the Covid-19 virus.

Particularly for already overweight and obese patients, the current pandemic and related isolation requirements may pose several additional concerns. Emotional eating may contribute to higher intake of processed foods, refined carbohydrates and alcohol – all of which add stress to the body and immune system. Social distancing practices along with the closure of recreational facilities may have negatively impacted activity levels, contributing to a viscous cycle of blood sugar imbalance and weight gain.

The good news?

The human body has the amazing ability to heal itself when given the right tools.

Healthy body weight and blood sugar control can be achieved through personalized lifestyle medicine.

A Nutritional Therapist can address your health concerns and create an individualized eating and lifestyle plan to aid in minimizing the risk and reduce the severity of disease should infection occur.

We possess deeply engrained beliefs that have been instilled in us by the media, our family and school. Some beliefs are outdated and need to be addressed. Furthermore, it is important to note that to one person a food may act as medicine, and to another it may act as poison causing inflammatory cytokines. For this reason, a Nutritional Therapist, after taking a full case history, will be able to create an eating plan to suit each person’s individual requirements.

Lessons from history

Malnutrition, both under- and overnutrition, have been linked to poorer outcomes in viral infections since the “Spanish” influenza of 1918. Since then other influenza outbreaks, including most recently the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, have all confirmed this connection. In 2009, 1,088 patients were hospitalized or died from H1N1 over a five-month period in California, of which 58% were obese within the adult patients with known body mass index (BMI) values.

Similarly, patients with obesity make up a large percentage of COVID-19 positive patients, suggesting an increased susceptibility. Once infected, patients with obesity and diabetes are more likely to experience prolonged illness and require hospitalization, demonstrating higher risk of influenza-related complications and mortality.

Nutritional Relevance

Micronutrients including vitamins D, C, and A and minerals such as zinc and selenium play important roles in infection resistance and supporting faster recovery when infected.

A Western diet, high in saturated fats, sugars, and refined carbohydrates, is a major contributor to metabolic disease risk, including obesity and diabetes. It also rarely provides sufficient nutrient density, leaving many adults overfed while undernourished and deficient in several immune supportive micronutrients.

This way of eating directly contributes to an impaired immune response and contributes to a chronic inflammatory state, which increases the risk of metabolic disease.

One of the most powerful tools that has the potential to reduce risk of both acute and chronic disease alike is FOOD!


The current global pandemic has brought about an important responsibility for Nutritional Therapists to work virtually with clients to encourage weight management strategies and to optimize a whole-foods dietary plan, whilst addressing nutritional deficiencies and helping to maintain metabolic health and build immune resilience.

**Vanessa Henning, NT **obtained her nutritional medicine training from the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London, United Kingdom. Vanessa has over 11 years of clinical experience, with special interests in weight management, metabolic health and children’s developmental-behavioral health.

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