Obesity is a Risk Factor for Swine Flu

Friday, July 17, 2009
By: Byron J. Richards,
Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

The Center for Disease Control is alarmed that obesity may make it much more difficult to fight off the swine flu.  Of ten severely ill swine flu patients at a Michigan Hospital, nine of them were obese.  None of these patients have fully recovered.

“What this suggests is that there can be severe complications associated with this virus infection, especially in severely obese patients,” said CDC virus expert Dr. Tim Uyeki.  “And five of these patients had ... evidence of blood clots in the lungs. This has not been previously known to occur in patients with severe influenza virus infections,” Uyeki said in a telephone interview.

Obese patients are already in a state of inflammatory excess from extra pounds of fat.  Unfortunately, the same inflammatory signals are needed to mount an efficient immune response.  When that response is not efficient, then it can become exaggerated and result in multiple organ failure and in this case blood clots in the lungs.

Any person that is overweight should take this issue very seriously.  It should be understood that if you are on a good weight loss trend and have lost up to 20% of your extra weight and are continuing to lose weight consistently then your inflammatory problem is much better than someone who is stuck or gaining weight.  Technically, just heading in the right direction of weight loss and improved fitness is going to help any overweight person even if they haven’t lost all the weight they should.  This gives everyone a few more months to work on this issue before what is likely to be a troubling flu season.

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