The past year has shown that obesity is a risk factor for severe complications of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Excess fat mass during obesity is known to be a risk factor for chronic diseases but also for severe infections and infectious complications. We have focused here on the elements responsible for this particular susceptibility to infections and more specifically to COVID-19. Excess fat is, in itself, responsible for alterations of the immune system by disrupting the production and function of immune cells. Indeed, hypertrophic adipocytes produce more pro-inflammatory adipokines (including cytokines). The increase in their apoptosis induces a release of pro-inflammatory compounds into the circulation and a recruitment of pro-inflammatory macrophages into the adipose tissue. A chronic systemic inflammatory state is then observed. In addition, diet, apart from its role in the development of adipose tissue, can also affect the immune system, with excess simple sugars and saturated fats exerting pro-inflammatory effects. This inflammation, the adipokines released by the adipocytes, and the infiltration of lipids into the lymphoid organs affects the production of immune cells and, directly, the functions of these cells. The alteration of the immune system increases the risk of infection as well as complications, including secondary bacterial infections and septic states, and increases infection-related mortality. During COVID-19, the chronic inflammatory state promotes the cytokine shock, characteristic of severe forms, caused in particular by excessive activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Furthermore, in obese subjects, the already present endothelial dysfunction will render endothelial inflammation (endotheliitis) due to viral infiltration all the more severe. Added to this is a state of hypercoagulability and a decrease in respiratory capacity, leading to a risk of severe COVID-19 with cardiovascular complications, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and disseminated intravascular coagulation, which can lead to multiple organ failure and even death.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited