What hasn’t been talked about that much is how body weight and overall health impacts those who have become infected with COVID-19.
Researchers at New York University identified obesity as the biggest risk factor for people admitted to hospitals with COVID-19, along with age (being over 65) in the study Factors Associated With Hospitalization and Critical Illness Among 4,103 Patients With COVID-19 Disease in New York City. Per capita death rates from COVID-19 in New Orleans, whose population suffers from high levels of obesity and related ailments such as diabetes, have been reported at twice the rate of New York City.
What makes these facts alarming is that the U.S. leads the world in cases of the coronavirus, and on top of that, ranks first among OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) nations and has an adult obesity rate of 42.4%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And now that everyone is homebound, or should be, our eating habits have changed. We are now cooking at home, often times eating more meals and snacks than we are accustomed to and frankly, we have been forced to buy what is on the shelves in our supermarkets—not necessarily the foods that were normally on our shopping list.
According to the International Food Information Council Foundation's 2019 Food & Health Survey, 75% of consumer diets have trended healthier over the past 10 years, with lower sugar intake and eating more fruits and vegetables as the biggest changes. But, I hesitate to say, in these times, all that will change. And for the worst, I’m afraid.
Supermarkets have a responsibility to their shoppers. And when this pandemic is all over and our grocery stores return to normal, it will be important for those stores with retail dietitians to take the lead and help customers return to healthier eating—and for those stores without a retail dietitian, it may be time to hire one.