Increased risk of developing metabolic conditions during COVID-19 pandemic

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In a recent study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers examine the prevalence and association of metabolic conditions with health and sociodemographic factors during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and pre-pandemic periods.

Metabolic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular disease are leading causes of morbidity and mortality across the globe. In addition, metabolic disorders increase individual susceptibility to COVID-19 severity outcomes; however, there is limited data on the impact of COVID-19 on metabolic disorders.

Study: The prevalence of metabolic conditions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and its association with health and sociodemographic factors. Image Credit: Kristini / Shutterstock.com

Study: The prevalence of metabolic conditions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and its association with health and sociodemographic factors. Image Credit: Kristini / Shutterstock.com

About the study

In the present study, researchers determine the relationship between COVID-19 and metabolic conditions. They also evaluate the relationship between metabolic disorders among adults in the United States and the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, including lack of physical activity, tobacco consumption, sociodemographic variables, and depression/anxiety.

A nationally representative sample of U.S. adults was used to estimate the prevalence of metabolic disorders, including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, in pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. Data were obtained from health information national trends surveys (HINTSs) conducted on 5,359 adults in 2019 (pre-pandemic) and 3,830 adults in 2020 (pandemic).

The 2019 survey was conducted between January and April 2019, whereas the 2020 survey was conducted between February 2020 and June 2020. In total, the two survey datasets comprised 9,303 adult individuals. In addition, sociodemographic characteristics including age, sex, ethnicity/race, marital status, education, and income were also analyzed.

The depression/anxiety symptoms were analyzed using the patient health questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4) in the surveys. The weighted prevalence of metabolic conditions was determined and multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to establish adjusted odds ratio (AOR) values. HINTS datasets were de-identified before the analysis.

Diabetes and hypertension were self-documented by the participants in the surveys. Obesity was determined using body mass index (BMI) values, wherein BMI values exceeding 30 were considered obese.

Study findings

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a greater number of diabetic individuals were reported at 18% as compared to 17% in 2019. Comparatively, the number of individuals with hypertension and obesity remained largely similar during both periods. More individuals suffered from metabolic disorders in the pandemic period than during the pre-pandemic period at 56% and 55%, respectively.

In comparison to never-smokers, former smokers had greater odds of developing metabolic disorders in the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods with AOR values of 1.4 and 1.6, respectively. Individuals with mild depression/anxiety symptoms were more likely to develop metabolic disorders than those without such symptoms, with pre-pandemic and pandemic AOR values of 1.5 and 1.6, respectively.

A greater metabolic disorder prevalence was observed in the pandemic period as compared to the pre-pandemic period for individuals between 35 and 49 years of age, as well as those between 50 and 64 years of age. The prevalence of metabolic disorders increased among individuals 18 to 25 years of age, 26 to 34 years of age, and those aged 65 years or older. Notably, the metabolic disorder prevalence was greater among non-Hispanics than Hispanics.

In the pre-pandemic period, as compared to individuals aged 18 to 25 years, those aged 50 to 64 years and over 65 years of age had a significantly greater likelihood of developing metabolic disorders, with AOR values of 2.6 and 4.8, respectively.

In the pandemic period, the likelihood of developing metabolic conditions was significantly greater for individuals 26 to 34 years of age (AOR 2.0), 35 to 49 years of age (AOR 4.1), 50 to 64 years of age (AOR 6.2), and those 65 years and older (AOR 7.8) than individuals between the ages of 18 and 25.

In the pandemic period, men were significantly more likely to develop metabolic disorders (AOR 1.3) than women. Furthermore, non-Hispanic Blacks were significantly more likely than non-Hispanic Whites to develop metabolic disorders in the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods, with AOR values of 2.0 and 2.1, respectively.

Engaging in at least one moderate physical exercise weekly was associated with a reduced likelihood of developing metabolic disorders in the pre-pandemic (AOR 0.6) and pandemic (AOR 0.6) periods than physically inactive individuals.

Conclusions

The current study identifies an increased risk of metabolic conditions among certain subgroups of U.S. adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings could be used to guide the allocation of public health resources and interventions to target high-risk population subgroups like the elderly to reduce COVID-19-associated morbidities.

Individual health behaviors were also found to influence the likelihood of developing metabolic disorders in the pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. For example, former smoking increased the risk of developing metabolic conditions, whereas moderate-intensity physical exercise had the opposite effect. Thus, smoking cessation and physical activity must be encouraged to reduce the risk of developing metabolic conditions.

Nevertheless, further research must be conducted to validate the study findings.

Journal reference:
  • Mamudu, H. M., Adzrago, D., Odame, E. O., et al. (2023) The prevalence of metabolic conditions before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and its association with health and sociodemographic factors. PLoS ONE 18(2): e0279442. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0279442
Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Written by

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia

Pooja Toshniwal Paharia is an oral and maxillofacial physician and radiologist based in Pune, India. Her academic background is in Oral Medicine and Radiology. She has extensive experience in research and evidence-based clinical-radiological diagnosis and management of oral lesions and conditions and associated maxillofacial disorders.

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