The pandemic within other pandemics: COVID-19, obesity and diabetes

It has been more than two years since we faced the COVID-19 pandemic (Coronavirus Disease 2019), caused by the appearance of the SARS-COV2 virus (Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2).

Manuela Băbuș
Medical Writer
The pandemic within other pandemics: COVID-19, obesity and diabetes
source: PIXABAY

We are not only under a unique threat to our health, but we are at the crossroads of pandemics.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global crisis, affecting every aspect of life around the world. Its impact has been far-reaching, with the virus affecting not only physical health but also the economy, social structures, and mental well-being.
  • Apart from the physical impact on those infected, we are all experiencing the psychological, sociological, and economic repercussions of the ongoing state of "alertness."
  • Even though we hear the word "pandemic" every day, one of the less obvious consequences of the damage caused by various strains of the SARS-COV2 virus is that it has monopolised our attention, concealing from our sight other pandemics that are just as pernicious and deadly.
  • For instance, the obesity and diabetes pandemic, which has been affecting millions of people physically and mentally for a long time before the SARS-COV-2 virus started spreading worldwide.

Today's Pandemics: A Numerical Analysis of Their Impact"

  • In December 2019, SARS-COV2 infection emerged in Wuhan, China, and rapidly escalated into a pandemic within three months. As of the end of 2021, almost 284 million individuals had fallen ill with COVID-19, with over 5.5 million fatalities attributed to virus-related complications.[1]
  • In addition to COVID-19, overweight and obesity pose a significant threat to global health, as highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO). [2]
  • In 2016, more than 1.6 billion individuals over the age of 18 were considered overweight, of whom 650 million were obese.[2]
  • This upward trend in obesity has fed a surge in chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.[2,3]

The global epidemic of obesity and type II diabetes is perhaps the most significant outbreak in human history, and the number of type 2 diabetes cases has been vastly underestimated and requires special attention and resources.[3]

  • According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), around 537 million adults aged 20-79 had diabetes in 2021, approximately 1 in 10 adults, and this number is expected to increase to 784 million by 2045.[4]
  • In 2021, approximately 6.7 million deaths resulted from complications related to diabetes. This means that every 5 seconds, someone in the world succumbs to this disease.[5]

Exploring the Links Between COVID-19, Diabetes, and Obesity

  • As we are still facing a pandemic, cases of COVID-19 have been particularly severe for patients with chronic conditions; individuals with diabetes and/or obesity are at higher risk of hospitalization, admission to intensive care units, and mortality due to complications.[6]
  • A possible explanation is that individuals with diabetes have an increased inflammatory status in their bodies, and the inflammatory processes resulting from SARS-COV-2 infection can compound this issue. Additionally, viral infections such as COVID-19 can lead to increased blood sugar levels, which can potentially cause diabetes to decompensate.
  • Recent studies have suggested that infection with the SARS-COV-2 virus can lead to the development of diabetes. As a result, an international group of researchers has launched the CoviDIAB project, which aims to create a global electronic patient registry for individuals who have developed diabetes related to COVID-19. These patients will be registered and monitored. [7]
  • In addition, obesity is known to induce chronic inflammation in the body.
  • Adipose tissue is metabolically active and can lead to insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and dyslipidemia, all of which increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
  • Excessive fat accumulation in the abdomen and thorax can also affect the respiratory movements, making it difficult to breathe and leading to inadequate pulmonary oxygenation.[8]
  • On the other hand, the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, with its quarantine measures, self-isolation, and associated anxiety, has in many cases disrupted movement and eating patterns, promoting the development of obesity and diabetes. [8]
  • Studies conducted on obese patients in the United States who were infected with SARS-COV-2 have shown a 113% higher risk of hospitalization, a 74% higher risk of admission to intensive care units, and a 48% higher risk of mortality compared to patients with normal weight. [9]
  • In conclusion, we find ourselves at a crossroads of pandemics, where obesity, diabetes, and COVID-19 mutually reinforce each other and contribute to the loss of countless lives worldwide every second.
  • It is within our power to educate ourselves, take preventative measures, and utilize all the weapons available to us through scientific advancements and the guidance of medical professionals in our fight against the clock with a virus that is difficult to defeat. This also means making lifestyle changes and moving away from unhealthy habits that can contribute to the chronic diseases of our time.
  • In other words, we have a choice to either become a statistic in one or more of the pandemics of our time or take actions to safeguard our health and wellbeing.

Article Citations & Bibliography

1., accessed at 28.12.2021

2., accessed at 14.12.2021

  1. Zimmet P.Z, Diabetes, and its drivers: the largest epidemic in human history? Clinical Diabetes and Endocrinology volume 3, article number 1 (2017)
  2. IDF DIABETES ATLAS Tenth edition 2021
  3. Yang L., Obesity and COVID-19 in Adult Patients with Diabetes; Diabetes 2021;70:1061–1061069 |
  4., accesed at 11.11.2021
  5. Khunti K, Del Prato S, Mathieu C, Kahn SE, Gabbay RA, Buse JB. Covid-19, Hyperglycemia, and New-Onset Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2021 Oct 8:dc211318. Doi: 10.2337/dc21-1318. [Online ahead of print]. PMID: 34625431
  6. Wu C et al. „Risk Factors Associated With Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Death in Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pneumonia in Wuhan, China”. JAMA Internal Medicine, 13 martie 2020.
  7. Meera Senthilingam, Covid-19 has made the obesity epidemic worse, but failed to ignite enough action; BMJ 2021;372:n411 Published: 4 March 2021

Please note that the information provided on this blog is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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Manuela Băbuș.
Medical Writer