Social inequalities and nutritional disparities: the link between obesity and COVID-19

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2022 Jan;26(1):320-339. doi: 10.26355/eurrev_202201_27784.


Objective: Cohort studies, clinical audits of patients with COVID-19 in hospital and routine primary care records provided evidence-based insights on the relationship between excess weigh, obesity and COVID-19. The purpose of this umbrella review is to highlight the relationship between nutritional quality and social inequalities related to CDNCD, obesity and SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Materials and methods: Only articles published from 2008 to the present were included in the search to show an updated picture of the topic. The search for published studies was conducted in February 2021 in the scientific databases PubMed (MEDLINE). The terms used for the search were "COVID-19", "Obesity", "Disparities", "Nutritional inequalities", "Chronic degenerative non-communicable diseases" and "review" OR "systematic review" OR "meta-analysis" separated by the Boolean operator AND.

Results: 1874 reviews were found, but only 99 met the objective. Obese or dysmetabolic patients are those who had a worse course of disease following COVID-19. This data was observed not only for Chinese and Caucasians, but also and above all among Africans, African Americans, Latinos and indigenous people. Plausible mechanisms to explain the association between obesity and COVID-19 outcomes, included the role of excess adipose tissue on respiratory function, metabolic dysfunction, the cardiovascular system, enhanced inflammatory response and impaired response to infection.

Conclusions: Today, chronic non-communicable degenerative diseases (CDNCDs) are responsible for 70% of public health expenditure, affecting 30% of the population (one or more chronic diseases). Unfortunately, given the health emergency due to SARS-CoV-2, infectious diseases are currently more at the center of attention. However, the spread of infectious communicable diseases and CDNCDs is facilitated in situations of social disparity. In fact, in the poorest countries there are the highest rates of malnutrition and there is a greater risk of contracting viral infections, as well as, paradoxically, a risk of comorbidity, due to access to cheaper food and qualitatively poor, with high caloric density.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / complications
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • COVID-19 / mortality
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*