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Dr. Peter Brukner OAM3 min read

How COVID-19 is putting Aussies with type 2 diabetes at greater risk

As we move towards a new post-vaccination world, the assumption is that the impact of COVID-19 will lessen.

The various approved vaccines indeed seem effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19. But in highly vaccinated countries like Israel and the UK, many fully vaccinated people are still being infected with COVID-19. These are the so-called “breakthrough cases”.

In addition, there is an apparent waning of immunity after approximately six months. Therefore, the possibility of a booster dose of vaccine is currently the subject of much debate.

However we look at it, it seems that we will have to live with a significant amount of COVID-19 infection in our society, despite a high vaccination rate.

The relationship between COVID-19, unhealthy weight and type 2 diabetes

The most important thing we can do to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in a post-vaccination world is to reduce those diseases which worsen the COVID-19 prognosis.

95% of those who died from COVID-19 in the US had “significant comorbidities”; that is, more than one disease or condition. The main conditions associated with the poor outcome in cases of COVID-19 are obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In fact, the risk of death from COVID-19 is about ten times higher in countries where most of the population is overweight, according to a recent report from the World Obesity Federation.

Australians at increased risk of death from COVID-19

Two interrelated diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes are highly prevalent in Australia.

Two in three (67%) Australians aged 18 and over are overweight or obese; 36% are overweight but not obese, and 31% obese. Around 12.5 million adults in Australia alone are at greater risk of death from COVID-19 due to unhealthy weight.

And what of the interrelated type 2 diabetes? Over 1.3 Australians live with type 2 diabetes, and it’s estimated that 500,000 people are undiagnosed. A further two million Australians have pre-diabetes and are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

These numbers are getting worse every year. Australians are getting fatter and sicker by the day. The COVID-19 pandemic has just brought more attention to these conditions.

There is some evidence that the COVID-19 lockdowns have made things worse. We often joke about “COVID kilos”, but there is evidence that the amount of unhealthy eating has increased in the past two years of the pandemic with subsequent detrimental effects on weight and type 2 diabetes.

It’s time to take action

We’ve shown enormous concern and shut down large parts of the country to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s time to show the same commitment to tackling the diabesity (diabetes and obesity) epidemic.

As eminent Melbourne diabetes specialist Professor Paul Zimmet said back in 2017, “the diabesity epidemic is likely to be the biggest epidemic in human history”.

We have sat back and allowed this to happen.

Well, now is the time for action. The most significant single cause of the diabesity epidemic is our poor diet. Our diet has changed dramatically in the space of a generation, and we now get the majority of our dietary needs from processed and ultra-processed foods.

We urgently need to go back to eating the way our parents and grandparents ate, eating fresh, home-cooked food, as close to its natural state as possible. The focus needs to be on meat, fish, eggs, dairy, vegetables, fruit and nuts. Reduce the obvious sources of sugar (soft drinks, cakes and chocolate) and the not so obvious sources (breakfast cereals, fruit juices, flavoured yoghurt, muesli bars and sauces).

How Defeat Diabetes can help

There is growing evidence that a low carb approach to managing type 2 diabetes can not only result in weight loss but can reduce people's risk of developing the condition and help put it into remission.

To achieve these goals, the Defeat Diabetes Program provides information in the form of videos, articles, action plans, quizzes, recipes, meal plans and cooking demonstrations to help reduce the carbohydrate content of your diet.

Our recent survey of Defeat Diabetes members showed that, after three months, 63% had put their type 2 diabetes into remission. They had lost an average of eight kilos.

In our post-pandemic world, might it now be time to finally take on the global diabesity epidemic, protect our citizens and address the issue of diet?

Join the leading evidence-based, doctor-led program transforming the health of Australians. Start your free trial today.

Start your free trial here.