When Pandemics Collide: the Interplay of Obesity and COVID-19

Manpreet S. Mundi, Jayshil J. Patel, Osman Mohamed Elfadil, Jalpan Patel, Ishani Patel, Sanjeev Nanda, Ryan T. Hurt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose of Review: The COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. In addition to those with advanced age and co-morbidities such as heart disease or cancer, obese individuals have also had very high rates of hospitalization, critical illness, need for ventilator support, as well as mortality. A number of factors associated with obesity have led to devastating consequences as these two pandemics have interacted. Recent Findings: Obese individuals through a combination of structural and cellular level changes have greater risk of ischemic heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory disease, which are themselves risk-factors for acquiring COVID-19 disease. These structural changes also result in increased intra-abdominal and intra-thoracic pressure as well as a restrictive lung physiology that leads to reduction in total lung capacity, functional residual capacity, and increase in airway hyper-reactivity. Adipose tissue is also impacted in obese individuals leading to local as well as systemic inflammation, which can contribute to increased release of free fatty acids and systemic insulin resistance. Additionally, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and dipeptidyl peptidase 4, which act as receptors for SARS-CoV-2 are also significantly increased in obese individuals. Summary: The present manuscript reviews these structural, immune, and molecular changes associated with obesity that make obese individuals more vulnerable to acquiring severe COVID-19 and more challenging to manage associated complications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number26
JournalCurrent gastroenterology reports
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Inflammation
  • Obesity
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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