COVID's elephant in the room: The obesity epidemic

How's this for a phony controversy?

According to Tristan Justice at The Federalist:

Sweetgreen CEO Jonathan Neman caught controversy this week after a viral since-deleted LinkedIn post linked the severity of the coronavirus pandemic with high levels of obesity.

"[Seventy-eight percent] of hospitalizations due to COVID are Obese and Overweight people," Neman wrote Tuesday citing March data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "Is there an underlying problem that perhaps we have not given enough attention to? Is there another way to think about how we tackle 'healthcare' by addressing the root cause?"

Neman went on to highlight COVID-19 as an endemic virus "here to stay for the foreseeable future."

"We cannot run away from it and no vaccine nor mask will save us (in full disclosure I am vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated)," Neman added. "Our best bet is to learn how to best live with it and focus on overall health vs preventing infection."

Why the heck is this controversial?  The man was scored on his social media account and took the post down.  Somehow, he's a bad guy.

It's a fact that obesity raises one's odds of finding oneself in the hospital with COVID, in striking contrast to those who are not obese.  That's not obesity's only risk, either.  Obesity is now considered by cancer researchers to be just as bad as smoking in elevating risks of developing cancer.  Meanwhile, pretty much everyone knows that obesity is linked to a significant risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attacks, and stroke.  The RAND Institute found in a study that obesity is the biggest factor in chronic health conditions — worse than smoking, worse than drinking, worse than poverty — and "should be an urgent public health priority."  Obesity is simply not good for you.

His plan, and I'm not necessarily advocating it, is to tax high-calorie, high-carb, and sugary junk food and make that a little less accessible to the public. 

Obviously, he's tooting his own horn, given that Sweetgreen, his very tasty salad bar chain (and I recommend it), focuses on fresh and healthy green ingredients.  He got mocked by the leftist news site Vice for having a conflict of interest:

Vice News, one of the first publications to report the post, mocked Neman as well.

"On Tuesday, the CEO of Sweetgreen, a restaurant chain that sells salads for around $15 a serving, said that the underlying problem with the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans so far is that most of them were fat," wrote Edward Ongweso Jr.

(Speaking as someone who loves to go to Sweetgreen, that $15 claim is nonsense.  You can get many good items for less than that — an exquisite salad at about the price of fast food, the latter of which, if you check, has gone up in price based on Joe Biden's labor shortages and the Democrats' soaring minimum wages.)

Sure, Neman would benefit if junk food were taxed.  My objection to that idea would be that the government bureaucrats deciding the taxes are the same ones who gave us the food pyramid, which has obesity-promoting properties of its own.  They'd tax cream and eggs and let white bread go.

But it's beside the point.  Neman's call to focus on cutting obesity as a COVID preventative is very important, a perfectly real risk, that should be well considered instead of shot down.

Neman notes that COVID is here to stay, so the public needs to learn to live with it.  Vaccines are far from a panacea, with breakthrough cases seen in all versions.  And effective treatments, such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, have been demonized.  Why not focus on prevention so that anyone who gets COVID will stay out of the hospital and soon be over it?  Targeting obesity does indeed get to the root of it.  And sadly, no one seems to notice — certainly not the city and state officials who are shutting down playgrounds and gyms.

The current approach to COVID is all about lockdowns and discouraging physical activity, which, along with a healthy diet, is key to weight loss.  Playgrounds have been shut down.  Here are some absurdities seen in pictures from American Thinker editor in chief Thomas Lifson:


Closed park, blocked basketball hoop.  Photos by Thomas Lifson.

Another problem is that right now, the dominant narrative is "fat acceptance" instead of health improvement.  Overweight models are being used in ads and photo spreads, which isn't a major problem in itself, except that there is actual denial in some quarters about obesity being unhealthy.  Cosmopolitan ran a series of photo covers declaring obese women (who were wearing exercise clothes to lose weight) "healthy."  Teen Vogue did, too.

Anyone who's fat should not be mocked for such a common condition to our society, but these phony claims about healthiness are counterproductive.

It's almost as if someone wants the public to be fat — the sugar barons, the pharmaceutical companies, the food pyramid geniuses, someone.  There are exceptions out there, such as Michelle Obama and her poorly prescribed childhood obesity campaign, which had good intentions, but something out there seems to be conspiring against a good public health campaign to encourage the loss of weight in the age of COVID.  

The examples abound and have been abounding:

Why was Dr. Robert Atkins, M.D. made a pariah for his discoveries on the importance of low-carb diets in weight loss, based on his research with diabetics, something that only recently has been vindicated?

And why are there no weight loss movies?  A panel I attended several years ago at a Los Angeles Jewish conference featured several top-name Hollywood film directors, one of whom noted that there's no such thing as a movie about diets, despite much of the public being involved in one and having that experience to relate to — an obvious film audience.  Fat and dealing with obesity honestly are actually taboo in getting films made, meaning someone doesn't want to finance them.

And the funny stuff continues:

Bill Clinton was recently seen on a yacht in some place like Martha's Vineyard with a sugar baron.  What was that about?  What was the special interest?  Seems like something's going on, knowing Clinton's interest in trading favors.

Whatever it is going on, Neman made a very good point on how to prevent COVID from becoming a catastrophe to those who die from it.  It's passing strange that that was scored on that front instead of considered, debated, and praised.  Who are these COVID-accelerant deniers, and why are they ignoring science?

Images: Thomas Lifson by permission.

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