British Nutrition Foundation conference assesses nutrient weapons against COVID-19

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The conference, which took place on 24 November, also highlighted stress management and reduced stigma around obesity as important ways to tackle the virus’s impact.

Professor Jason Halford from the University of Leeds presented evidence that people living with obesity had an increased risk of contracting the virus, hospitalisation, intensive care admission and death from COVID-19.

Halford shared data from a survey conducted by the European Coalition for People Living with Obesity revealing that 73% of those questioned were concerned about COVID-19 due to their weight. However, 43% had been comfort or binge eating since the beginning of the pandemic; 60% were experiencing low levels of motivation; and 60% were struggling daily with their mental health.

Stigma around obesity

He emphasised the negative impact that unusual life events – such as quarantine and lockdown at home – could have on weight gain and said many weight management services had been ‘deprioritised’ due to the pandemic. As such, he stressed the stigma around obesity, particularly on social media and in the press, was unhelpful in improving public health. Instead, strategies for supporting good mental health were needed to help the weight loss efforts of those living with obesity.

Prof Philip Calder of the University of Southampton, said a well-functioning immune system was key to providing robust defence against infections such as COVID-19. Among the many nutrients needed for immunity, he highlighted Vitamin D, zinc and selenium as being particularly important for anti-viral immunity. 

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