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Dr Michael Mosley On The Dangers Of The Second Wave For Those Who Are Overweight

overweight and covid scaled

Dr Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer suggested that a second wave of the virus is likely and those who are obese should consider losing weight.

Dr Michael Mosley explains why he agrees and offers advice on losing weight safely and rapidly.

Anyone carrying excess weight is at a greater risk of becoming ill if they get Covid-19. The more overweight you are, the lower your lung capacity so if Covid-19 attacks your lungs you are more likely to end up in intensive care.

Being obese also means you are likely to have a less efficient immune response, and added health complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes which seriously increase your risk of Covid-19 complications. But losing weight can swiftly boost your chances of recovery, and rapid weight loss via The Fast 800 has been shown to be a powerfully effective way of going about it.

I do think there is a likely to be a second wave as a number of other countries have already begun to experience theirs. It is most likely to happen as we move into winter, when people are bored of social distancing rules and begin to huddle up together indoors.

The virus is far more likely to spread indoors than outdoors, and there is good evidence that sunshine (ultraviolet light) kills the virus fairly fast.

I have been writing about the importance of losing weight if you have a large waist and raised blood sugars. As well as weight loss, I’ve also written about good gut health, intermittent fasting, ways of reducing stress and getting better sleep. And one of the threads linking all my work has been the way these lifestyle changes will not only shrink your waistline but also bolster your immunity.

Being overweight doesn’t increase your risk of catching the virus if you are exposed to it but being obese does make you twice as likely to end up in intensive care with life-threatening complications if you do catch it. In fact, three quarters of the people who die from Covid-19 are overweight or obese, which is worrying news for the estimated two thirds of the UK population who are heavier than they should be.

Right now, under the spectre of this frightening pandemic, losing weight isn’t about being ‘bikini body ready’ for your summer holiday, or slimming down to fit into your favourite jeans – for many people, weight loss is now, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

5 reasons why Covid-19 is so much worse if you are overweight:

You have less space to breathe. Any excess fat around the neck and airway and the extra weight on the chest hinders breathing, making very heavy people more vulnerable to complications straight away. The more overweight you are, the lower your lung capacity so, if Covid-19 attacks your lungs then you are more likely to end up in intensive care.

You’re more likely to have raised blood sugar levels or type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (where your blood sugars are raised but not yet in the diabetic range) are more prone to all forms of infection. That’s because raised blood sugar unleashes destructive molecules which interfere with the body’s natural infection-control defences 1.

You are more likely to have metabolic syndrome. If you have a large waist you are more likely to have dangerous ‘visceral fat’ in your abdomen and this can lead to a suite of conditions which include raised blood sugar levels, elevated blood pressure and abnormal levels of cholesterol and fat in the blood which together form a toxic cluster called ‘metabolic syndrome’. 

This elevates your risk of dying from Covid-19 ten-fold. That is worrying for the 1 in 3 adults over the age of 50 in the UK, Australia and the UK who have metabolic syndrome. Many of them don’t know it.

You are likely to have damaged arteries. People with raised blood sugar levels also tend to have extensive damage to their blood vessels.

Covid-19 attacks your blood vessels and also causes increased formation of blood clots, and if your blood vessels are already damaged through long-term raised blood sugar levels or too much fat in the blood, then this can put you at risk of heart attack or stroke. 

Your immune system likely to struggle. Not only will an immune system weakened by excess weight be unable to mount a strong enough defence to stop the coronavirus replicating itself throughout your body, but it is more likely to over-react under pressure, causing ‘collateral damage’ to healthy tissue.  This can lead to organ failure and even death.

So, is it safe to lose weight quickly?  Yes, absolutely. There is a widespread belief that if you lose weight fast then you will put it on even faster. But is it true? 

In a recent review article titled “Myths, Presumptions and Facts about Obesity” in the prestigious medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers put this claim firmly into the “myths” category. After looking at numerous studies which have compared rapid with slow and steady weight loss, they concluded that you would do better to lose it quickly rather than slowly.

A recent Australian study backs up these claims. Researchers took 200 obese volunteers and put half of them on a low calorie diet (less than 800 calories a day) for 12 weeks. The other half were asked to cut their calories by 500 a day (enough to lose around a pound a week). They were asked to do this for 36 weeks.

There was a very high drop-out rate among the steady dieters: less than half made it to the end of the 36 weeks. Most said they gave up because they were frustrated by the slow rate of progress. By comparison, more than 80% of those in the rapid weight loss programme stuck to it.

They were then followed for three years. Although both groups put some weight back on, the amounts were similar. Katrina Purcell, a dietician who led the study, said, “our results show that achieving a weight loss target is more likely, and drop-out is lower, if losing weight is done quickly.”

Rapid weight loss isn’t suitable for everyone and if you do decide to lose weight fast you have to make sure you have the right balance of nutrients in your diet.

Most rapid weight loss studies are now based on 800 calories a day, which is high enough to be sustainable and give the nutrients you need, and low enough to lead to rapid weight loss and other beneficial health changes.

You might worry about getting hungry but most people who do the Fast 800 say that within a very short time your hunger passes. Rapid weight loss encourages your body to switch over to fat burning. It also reduces insulin levels, increases growth hormone and boosts levels of a hormone called BDNF in the brain, which helps improve your mood.

The Fast 800 as a weight loss plan is based on cutting-edge medical research. It works! It’s not so much a diet, as a bespoke weight loss planner, designed to fit around your own needs. It embraces time-restricted eating and the Mediterranean principles of consuming a diet rich in healthy proteins and vegetables and lower in carbs.

Healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts are encouraged and the occasional glass of wine or bite of dark chocolate is allowed, so that people eat well, remain sated and don’t feel deprived. It comprises of three ‘tracks’ or options and is combined with advice on planning, exercise and mindfulness.

1. The Very Fast 800, a 12-week very low calorie (800 per day) plan for rapid weight loss

2. The New 5:2, which counters insulin resistance with regular two-day fasting regimes, where you consumer two meals with a total of 800 calories per day.

3. The Way of Life, which works either as a great maintenance plan for those who have achieved their goals, or as an entry-level plan for those considering their next options

Life is about much, much more than calorie counting. So why condemn yourself to years of struggling with pointless weight-loss regimes, when a focused and structured intervention can switch your cravings off for life?

A 12-week programme on costs £99 and includes:

  • Personalised menus:  800 calories per day, 5:2, or a Mediterranean-style plan, all with vegetarian options. Your online personal assessment will determine the right plan for you (however, you can change your menu preferences at any time throughout the programme).
  • A meal planner: swap recipes in and out, as it suits.
  • Shopping lists that update when you change your meal plan.
  • Nearly 250 easy-to-make and ‘taste great’ recipes.
  • Exercise plans for the novice, confident and expert!
  • Mindfulness guidance.
  • A personal tracker.
  • All-new handouts and a library of videos to support learning.
  • An active forum of like-minded colleagues and dedicated health professionals.

Please visit to sign up.