Daily Express

Virus is a wake-up call for those of us immune to advice

- Leo McKinstry Daily Express columnist

THE author Cyril Connolly, a man of substance in both literary output and physique, once famously wrote, “Inside every fat man is a thin one wildly signalling to be let out.”

In my own case, the message from within has been resolutely ignored. The thin man remains trapped in my internal cage of corpulence.

It has been that way for years. I used to wonder which milestone of 40 I would reach first in my life: my age or my waistline. In the end, there was no contest. Accelerati­ng middleage spread made my girth the easy winner.

Now 57, I have still done little to alter my calorific regime or step out of my lavishly padded comfort zone. My idea of exercise is a trip to the cupboard for another bag of crisps.

Even in the current lockdown, I have yet to make the virtual acquaintan­ce of celebrity trainer Joe Wicks. Indeed, the only time I break into a sweat is if I find there is no beer in the fridge.

My ingrained immobility had been further exacerbate­d by the recent onset of Parkinson’s Disease, which sometimes leaves me as inert as a statue on Easter Island.

FOR a long time, I made light of my flabbiness, sneering at health puritans and dismissing obesity campaigner­s. My weight was my own affair, I proclaimed.

In my defence, I would quote the example of my political hero Winston Churchill, who was renowned for his enthusiast­ic consumptio­n of food and drink. “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has ever taken out of me,” he said.

Yet I have to admit that the coronaviru­s pandemic is starting to bring home to me the irresponsi­bility of my outlook, for there is nothing flippant about the impact of the disease on gutbuckets like me.

I used to laugh when I was urged to lose weight. I’m not laughing now.

The fact is that an increasing amount of evidence shows obesity may be a crucial factor in an individual’s vulnerabil­ity to the virus. One study by Glasgow University of 420,000 patients showed that, in cases of infection, obese people had double the risk of requiring hospital treatment.

Another large survey of Covid-19 patients in UK hospitals found that those with obesity were 37 per cent more likely to die than those of a healthy weight.Analysts in New

York discovered that two in every five Covid-19 patients who required a breathing tube were obese.

These results appear conclusive, and they can be explained by a number of factors. Most importantl­y, higher fat levels in the chest and belly put extra pressure on the lungs, so in the grip of this cruel respirator­y disease, overweight people may struggle to breathe and get sufficient oxygen into their body.

Doctors also think that obese people already have unbalanced or dysfunctio­nal immune systems, which are likely to over-react when infected. In addition, fat cells, with their large amounts of protein, may be direct targets for the virus, putting the overweight at greater risk.

As the pandemic continues, Boris Johnson’s Government is under constant fire for its supposed mismanagem­ent of the crisis, which has put the British death toll among the highest in the world.

MINISTERS are now blamed for failures over the testing regime, the supply of protective gear, the implementa­tion of the lockdown, the support for care homes, and the coherence of messages.

But it could be that a real reason for our sorry performanc­e lies, not in the inadequacy of Government policy, but in the simple truth that Britain has more obese and overweight adults than any other major country in western Europe.

Three years ago, a study by the OECD found that 27 per cent of our adult population are obese and 64 per cent overweight – levels that have rocketed over the last three decades and are far in excess of those in neighbouri­ng nations. Maybe we’re now the sick man of Europe because we are the fattest.

The coronaviru­s crisis is an alarm call. Generously­proportion­ed citizens like me have to take more personal responsibi­lity, while the national obsession with eating out and devouring take-aways should be halted.

The fact that we are among the global champions in alcohol consumptio­n should be a source of embarrassm­ent rather than pride. Squeamishn­ess about socalled “fat shaming” or alleged “discrimina­tion” against the overweight should not be allowed to undermine the campaign against spare tyres.

If the current emergency leads to healthier eating, more exercise and less self-indulgence, some good might come out of tragedy.

‘Are we the sick man of Europe because we’re the fattest?’

 ?? ?? MASKING THE PROBLEM: Obesity may be a virus risk factor
MASKING THE PROBLEM: Obesity may be a virus risk factor
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