We need effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of obesity as much as for COVID-19. According to NHS data published last May, 26 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women in the UK were estimated to be obese – defined as having body mass index greater than 30. The situation may now have deteriorated owing to lockdown-related weight gain. Not only are obese patients more likely to die from COVID-19, but recent estimates by researchers at the University of Glasgow suggest that obesity may have overtaken smoking as a cause of ill health in England and Scotland.
A healthy balanced diet combined with appropriate levels of physical activity can prevent weight gain, but it is not an effective treatment for obesity. Very low-calorie diets, consuming less than 1,000kcal per day, can result in weight loss of 10 to 15kg in up to 12 weeks. More modest moderate calorie restriction, as used by most commercial slimming plans, can result in an average weight loss of around 7kg a year. However, any weight lost by these methods is usually regained, so another approach is needed.
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