Covid-Besity: Doctors Warn British ‘Beer Bellies’ Put Nation at Greater Risk of Covid-19

Research by doctors suggests that obesity can worsen the severity of Covid-19 symptoms, particularly if they have abdominal fat – more commonly known as a ‘beer belly’.

According to government statistics, 27.8 percent* of the UK population is obese and 35.6 percent is overweight, meaning almost two thirds of Brits are at an increased risk of developing a more serious case of Covid-19, should they become infected.

Doctors at Pall Mall Medical warn that body fat, but particularly abdominal fat, is highly inflammatory and prevents the immune system from fighting a strong enough response against viruses. The fat itself triggers a protein called NLRP3 which activates the immune system. This coupled with inflammation from Covid-19 generates a high number of molecules called cytokines that can ravage the organs trying to fight the virus, including, most worryingly as Covid-19 is a respiratory infection, the lungs.

These warnings are echoed by researchers in New York who analysed 8,000 cases of Covid-19 hospitalisation and found that obesity or being aged 65+ were the biggest risk factors in a case becoming even more serious. Also, it is reported that Italian officials are looking into doubling the self-isolation period for obese individuals to 28 days because of the relationships between the virus and obesity.

Medical teams advise trying to tackle weight management problems sooner rather than later for all round improved health as obesity is the second leading risk factor for cancer, a predictor of Type 2 Diabetes and increases the risk of serious health problems including strokes. This urgency becomes even more important in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pall Mall Medical advises taking an all-round approach to handling weight management. The five simple steps it suggests when starting to address a weight problem are:

  1. Avoiding processed food: substitute these instead for whole foods that are rich in anti-inflammatory properties and fibre
  2. Standing-up: studies looking into prolonged sitting has shown a detrimental effect on metabolic health and increased subcutaneous fat. Incorporating movement, even if it is a few minutes a day, is enough to offset the dangerous effects of sitting
  3. Increase physical activity: this reduces inflammation and helps burn off visceral fat. People with a high BMI usually have other chronic conditions such as arthritis and breathing problems which can make movement and exercise difficult. This is why the best approach is to start slowly, with what feels comfortable and then step it up gradually. Most importantly, the exercise should be something you enjoy
  4. Manage stress: feeling distressed, as many especially do during the current crisis, can increase impulsivity when it comes to food – leading to comfort eating. Try and be aware of what you’re eating, take a breather before snacking or, if you can’t resist temptation, replace your usual treats with healthier alternatives such as nuts or dried fruit. Simple exercises such as sitting down and trying out a mindfulness app or taking a short walk around the block can also have an impact on our nervous system and strengthen our willpower
  5. Sleep well: there is a very close relationship between disrupted sleep patterns and weight gain. Improve sleep hygiene by sticking to a good bedtime routine, avoiding blue light prior to sleep and ensuring the room temperature is kept low so that you get a better night’s rest

Our GP, Dr. Priyanka Vaidya, said: “Approaching weight loss in terms of nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep is the best way of seeing long term effects that can prove especially beneficial to long term health. Now more than ever, it’s important to take our health seriously and to take every step we can to improve our own personal wellness.”

Pall Mall Medical doctors have also provided a healthy dinner recipe that offers optimum nutrition as well as an immunity boost;

Pall Mall Salmon


  • 1-2 salmon steaks
  • 2 table spoon lemon juice
  • I table spoon cumin
  • 1 TBSP turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 tablespoons of chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic paste
  • 3 TBSP of virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper as per taste


  1. Wash the salmon steaks with lemon and salt and pat dry with a towel
  2. Combine all the ingredients above in a bowl
  3. Put each piece of salmon in a piece of aluminium foil  and smear the combined sauce  on the salmon
  4. Close the aluminium foil and place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until salmon cooked
  5. Serve on a bed of boiled vegetables

If you are struggling to get an appointment with your NHS GP, At Pall Mall Medical, we offer private appointments with GPs and Consultants via telephone and video call.

You can book an appointment by calling 03300 58 44 55.