Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he caught Covid-19, which nearly cost him his life, because he was overweight.
Now he’s planning a campaign to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle to both improve their health and reduce the pressure on the National Health Service. When asked how to avoid catching the disease, he said: “Don’t be a fatty in your 50s.” He’s also said to have told some of his staff: “It’s all right for you thinnies.”
Researchers at Glasgow University looked at the data from more than 420,000 people and found that the greater a person’s BMI (body mass index) the greater the risk of them contracting Covid-19. The risk of the disease affecting them more severely also increased.
One in three Britons have a BMI of more than 30, making them clinically obese. It’s one of the highest rates among economically developed countries. The figures are even higher in the United States where four out of ten adults are obese…approximately 70 million people.
The British government has ordered a review to analyse how different factors such as age, ethnicity, obesity and gender can impact on now people react to exposure to the coronavirus. It comes after initial figures show that black, Asian and ethnic minority groups are up to three times more likely to die from Covid than the population in general.
Boris Johnson needed intensive care after contracting the disease and at one point it was feared that his life was in danger. He believes that one of the reasons he contracted the disease and was so badly affected by it is because he is overweight. He’s 5ft 9in and weighs more than 17 stone, giving him a BMI of about 36.
It’s no secret that Johnson likes his food and recently said on TV that he couldn’t become a vegan because he would find it too hard to give up delicious cheese meals.
In the past, Mr Johnson had been sceptical about the “nanny state” interfering in people’s lifestyle choices but now, according to the Times newspaper, he’s said to have told colleagues: “I’ve changed my mind on this.” He’s become obsessed with getting people to walk or cycle to work and believes this a good opportunity to “get Britain on its bike”.
He’s reported to be asking officials to draw up a new strategy to encourage people to eat more healthily and take more exercise. His ideas chime with many health officials who for many years have warned that people’s lifestyle choices are responsible for several diseases such as heart conditions and diabetes.
The treatment of diabetes swallows up 10% of the National Health Service budget. Healthier lifestyles could help reduce this figure considerably and save thousands of lives.
Irish research also identifies a link between obesity and Covid-19 but doctors there have warned against drawing simplistic conclusions and emphasising that people who are overweight should not be stigmatised.
In an articles in the Irish Times, Dr Finian Fallon, psychologist, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, Dublin; Prof Carel le Roux, physician, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group; and Prof Francis Finucane, consultant endocrinologist, Galway University Hospitals, say there was insufficient evidence to claim that Johnson’s obesity meant he suffered more than someone slimmer might have done.
They write: “We can’t apply these findings to everyone who is overweight or obese. You need to know how tall someone is to calculate their body mass index (BMI) and in frantically busy hospitals around the world in the past few weeks, height measurement may have understandably been a low priority for clinicians.
“So, studies to date have only found a higher risk from Covid-19 for patients in hospital with a very high BMI (above 35 units). While it may seem likely that overweight confers higher risk, it will take time and research to answer this question properly.”
Meanwhile, research from around the world suggests that Vitamin D supplements may help to boost immunity to Covid-19.