COVID's "19": The Weight We've Gained

The pandemic added to an already heavy health burden for those facing diabetes. We're working to lighten the load.
Jun 9, 2021 8:10 AM ET
Blog

Maybe the "19" in COVID-19 was always going to be a reminder of the literal pounds many gained throughout the course of the pandemic?

(For the record, it stands for 2019, the year the virus was identified.)

Intuitively, you could expect that many people likely have added at least some weight over the past year-plus of various lockdowns. A pandemic defined by keeping our distance, limiting travel and restricting personal interactions only exacerbated the propensity for sedentary lifestyles, weight gain, stress and other factors to potentially put more people at risk for chronic health issues, including prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, especially in underserved communities.

Now, there's some evidence that backs up that idea that an already heavy burden was made heavier for many.

And we're working to lighten the load.

COVID-19 and Type 2 Diabetes: Terrible Twosome

For those fortunate enough to be able to work from home during the pandemic, the absence of the normal milling about during the commute and workplace life was the start of their inactivity. For others, often those in underserved communities, the loss of jobs through the economic downturn had a similar effect, all with added stress.

So it stands that all that sitting likely didn't do us any favors.

And now, the New York Times reports that your instincts are likely right.

"Weight measurements from Bluetooth-connected smart scales suggests that adults under shelter-in-place orders gained more than half a pound every 10 days. That translates to nearly two pounds a month," the Times reported.

That's just the start. Risk factors for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes match up in eerie ways with the fallout from so much sitting during COVID.

  • Weight, where fatty tissue can make your body more resistant to insulin.
  • Inactivity. The less active, the greater your risk.
  • Race or ethnicity. Black, Hispanic, American Indian and Asian Americans are all at higher risk for type 2 diabetes. More on this shortly.
  • Age, where your risk increases as you get older.

It's a potentially terrible overlap. As the Times reports, "excess weight has been linked to a greater risk of developing more severe COVID-19 disease, and the United States already has among the highest rates of overweight and obesity in the world."

At the beginning of COVID vaccinations in the U.S., many states prioritized Americans with obesity and other chronic conditions like diabetes or hypertension.

Opening the Door to Best Diabetes Care

The challenge, then, is clear. As with myriad areas of life, COVID-19 made many troubling situations worse in ways that could linger long past the virus' domination of our daily lives.

So, what's to be done?

We're partnering with the American Diabetes Association to turn back the tide of diabetes that COVID-19 turned into a tsunami in many places.

As the first anchor sponsor of the American Diabetes Association's Health Equity Now initiative to address health disparities for people with diabetes, we've made a three-year, $5 million commitment to support the ADA's advocacy and community-driven activations designed to remove barriers to care while providing greater access to the latest medical technologies and health resources for underserved diabetes populations.

"People of color are 50 percent more likely to actually have diabetes. And believe it or not, African-Americans are about 2.3 times as likely to die from diabetes. And so you have to ask yourself, 'What is really going on?'" Tracey Brown, the ADA's chief executive officer, said during a conversation hosted by Washington Post Live as part the outlet's "Diabetes in America" panel discussion. She was joined by Abbott's Jared Watkin, senior vice president of Diabetes Care.

"What is happening here is this has to do with the inequity that exists, this has to do with a lack of access, affordability and quality care that exists. When you think about these people that are in these underserved communities, the incidence of diabetes goes up when you are living in either a food desert or a food swamp. It's really a pervasive issue."

A lack of nutritious food.

A lack of good jobs.

Compounded by a lack of access to quality care.

"What we've learned during this COVID time is that 50 percent of low-income Americans have lost some or all of their income," Brown said. "One out of 5 people during this COVID-19 time have actually had to choose between buying food and their diabetes medicines and supplies."

Abbott is working to make choices like those a thing of the past by making sure the present and future of diabetes care is accessible and affordable for many more by 2030.

"Breakthrough technologies should not be out of the reach of people who can benefit from it the most," Watkin said during the Post's discussion on the future of diabetes care. "So take for instance our FreeStyle Libre technology. It really is a revolutionary technology that removes many of the burdens of glucose monitoring and gives people the information they need to manage their diabetes and live healthier lives.

"But to us, that sort of innovation — without access — is frankly meaningless."

In fact, it's meaningful when we're helping people who need it the most.

"We're championing the right for all people, no matter what their income level, race or background to have access to latest medical technology," Watkin said.

Many carry such a heavy load in their daily lives. COVID-19 and diabetes can make it unbearable. By continuing to develop the world's leading glucose monitoring systems1 and partnering with ADA to help so many who were previously underserved, we're helping to lighten those loads.

And, if we're honest, it lifts our spirits as well.

Reference
1Data on file, Abbott Diabetes Care. Data based on the number of users worldwide for the FreeStyle Libre portfolio compared to the number of users for other leading personal use, sensor-based glucose monitoring systems.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

FREESTYLE LIBRE 2 SYSTEM

FREESTYLE LIBRE 14 DAY SYSTEM

Indications and Important Safety Information

FreeStyle Libre 14 day system: The FreeStyle Libre 14 day Flash Glucose Monitoring System is a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device indicated for the management of diabetes in persons age 18 and older. It is designed to replace blood glucose testing for diabetes treatment decisions. The System detects trends and tracks patterns aiding in the detection of episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, facilitating both acute and long-term therapy adjustments. Interpretation of the System readings should be based on the glucose trends and several sequential readings over time. The System is intended for single patient use and requires a prescription.

CONTRAINDICATIONS: Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment.

WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS: Do not ignore symptoms that may be due to low or high blood glucose, hypoglycemic unawareness, or dehydration. Check sensor glucose readings with a blood glucose meter when Check Blood Glucose symbol appears, when symptoms do not match system readings, or when readings are suspected to be inaccurate. The FreeStyle Libre 14 day system does not have alarms unless the sensor is scanned, and the system contains small parts that may be dangerous if swallowed. The FreeStyle Libre 14 day system is not approved for pregnant women, persons on dialysis, or critically-ill population. Sensor placement is not approved for sites other than the back of the arm and standard precautions for transmission of blood borne pathogens should be taken. The built-in blood glucose meter is not for use on dehydrated, hypotensive, in shock, hyperglycemic-hyperosmolar state, with or without ketosis, neonates, critically-ill patients, or for diagnosis or screening of diabetes. When using FreeStyle LibreLink app, access to a blood glucose monitoring system is required as the app does not provide one. Review all product information before use or contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) (or visit www.freestylelibre.us) for detailed indications for use and safety information. For full indications for use and safety information, see more here.

FREESTYLE LIBRE 2 SYSTEM

Indications and Important Safety Information

FreeStyle Libre 2 system: The FreeStyle Libre 2 Flash Glucose Monitoring System is a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device with real time alarms capability indicated for the management of diabetes in persons age 4 and older.*

WARNINGS/LIMITATIONS*: The System must not be used with automated insulin dosing (AID) systems, including closed loop and insulin suspend systems. Remove the sensor before MRI, CT scan, X-ray, or diathermy treatment. Do not take high doses of vitamin C (more than 500 mg per day), as this may falsely raise your Sensor readings. Failure to use the System according to the instructions for use may result in missing a severe low blood glucose or high blood glucose event and/or making a treatment decision that may result in injury. If glucose alarms and readings from the System do not match symptoms or expectations, use a fingerstick blood glucose value to make diabetes treatment decisions. Seek medical attention when appropriate and contact Abbott Toll Free (855-632-8658) or visit * www.freestylelibre.us for detailed indications for use and safety information.

*Please refer to www.freestylelibre.us for the indications and important safety information.