Over the last several months, there has been widespread concern voiced by both consumers and government authorities over the affect that Covid-19 can have on the individuals who are in the overweight to obese demographic. Several reports have been published stating that those who fit this category are at higher risk for not only contracting COVID but also have a greater potential for enduring fatal consequences. As a result, consumers have begun to look for healthier menu items when dining out as a means of addressing their weight and government officials have even begun to crackdown on unhealthy restaurant promotions in order to make it harder for consumers to access unhealthy takeout.
Making the Covid-Obesity Connection
Obesity is a growing concern in regards to the potential for contracting COVID. According to Dr. Craig Mallak, Broward County’s Chief Medical Examiner:
“The dominant message so far in the pandemic is that older people are the most at risk. That’s true, but doctors on the front lines of South Florida’s outbreak are also finding obesity is making it harder for people to fight off the virus, regardless of age.”
According to Dr. Mallak and other medical professionals, the risks that obesity poses to a person who has contracted the virus are as follows:
- The virus uses ACE2 receptors in order to infect cells and then copy itself. A person who is obese has more of these receptors, which increases susceptibility and increases the strength of the virus within the body, which in turn increases the duration of the virus’ presence within the system.
- Those who are obese or overweight are also at a greater potential for chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the catalyst for an array of diseases that can weaken the immune system increasing susceptibility for contracting the virus.
- Carrying extra weight can also compress the lungs, leading to smaller lung capacity. This could be a grave contributing factor considering how aggressively COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system.
- Obesity is linked with other chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, that heighten the risk.
Lawmakers Target Unhealthy Promotions
In other parts of the world, the response to the covid-obesity connection has been substantial. After contracting and overcoming the coronavirus, England’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, began taking aggressive action toward the war on obesity during the pandemic.
In an article published through the daily express, the Prime Minister explained the reasoning behind his desire to help his country make the necessary changes in regards to improving their health by shedding the pounds:
“We all put things off – I know I have. I’ve wanted to lose weight for ages and, like many people, I struggle with my weight. I go up and down, but during the whole coronavirus epidemic and when I got it too, I realised how important it is not to be overweight.”
In an effort to reduce access and exposure to unhealthy foods, the government has banned the advertisement of fast food on television before 9pm as well as any coupon promotions that offer a discount on unhealthy fast-food purchases. Government statistics showed nearly 8% of critically ill patients in intensive care units with the virus have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9% of the general population. Although these stats make the actions of the government quite reasonable, not everyone is a believer in their effectiveness.
According to Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the Advertising Association, said the “extreme” and “unnecessary” measures would have little effect in reducing obesity.
“We have some of the strictest [advertising] rules in the world already and children’s exposure to high fat, salt, and sugar adverts on TV has fallen by 70% over the last 15 years or so, but there’s been no change to obesity, so we don’t think these measures are going to work.”
Meeting Actual Consumer Demand
In an April survey of about 1,000 American adults, by the food and beverage communications firm HUNTER, about 50% of participants stated they were cooking and baking more now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same survey, 38% of participants reported ordering less take-out and delivery. With phrases like “the COVID 15” rising to the media surface and more and more consumers concerned about their weight, how can a restaurant appeal to the newly health-conscious consumer? One solution is by creating healthier menu items. In a webinar hosted by MenuCalc earlier this week, we covered how you can create healthier menu items by understanding calories and their origin.
During the creative process, it’s easy to place the focus on cultivating an irresistible flavor profile and caloric values can be quickly forgotten. We’ve bridged the gap and taught a foundational lesson on how to merge flavor and health to create the perfect combination. In the upcoming weeks we will continue our series on creating healthy menu items with topics ranging from reducing sodium to going plant-based. Meeting the demand of your health conscious diners is a completely attainable goal with the right knowledge.
Don’t miss our next event, go to our events page to REGISTER for the next event and view our archived. Did we mention it’s free? Get in the know and meet your customer’s demands by learning straight from our staff nutrition professionals. See you there!