Metabolic Health & Covid-19 Symptoms

Metabolic health may be broadly defined as how well or poorly your body processes and stores the nutrients (or anti-nutrients) provided by what we eat and drink, our diet, and the impact this has on our bodily functions.

Research shows that those with poor metabolic health are more likely to suffer from more severe symptoms and complications should they become infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus.1,2,3

There is also a growing amount of observational and anecdotal evidence to show that those who are metabolically healthy develop much milder symptoms and recover quicker.

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Someone may not be overweight, but still be metabolically unhealthy, it is what is going on under the hood that matters. Therefore, it is necessary to undertake a few blood tests and an MRI or Dexa scan, if available, to gain a more accurate impression of metabolic health.

  • Visceral body fat - an MRI or DEXA scan (the same used for measuring bone density) can be used to calculate how much harmful visceral fat is surrounding your deep organs. The lower the measurements, the better.
  • Fasting blood insulin - an essential measure of metabolic health, given the role of excess insulin in so many disease processes. Ideally, your fasting insulin should be below 5 mmol/L
  • Vitamin D - if you have low 'D' many critical physiological processes related to immune health will not function properly.2 Experts advise your Vitamin D levels should be above 45ng/mL, ideally above 70!

Of course, given current circumstances, arranging blood tests and scans can be tricky. That said, studies would show that most people could improve their numbers, so there is no harm in taking some steps towards improving your metabolic health.

To improve your metabolic health, it is recommended by health and nutritional experts that you:

  • Avoid sugar, obvious and in all its disguises, for example, in processed foods. Sugar is now considered a toxic substance given the havoc it causes to our metabolic, immune, hormonal and neurological function.4
  • Avoid seed oils (including rapeseed oil), also highly toxic as they are unstable, releasing free radicals and converting to trans-fats during cooking. These substances promote systemic inflammation and cell damage.5
  • Avoid highly processed grains, for example, in white bread, pasta and baking. Most grains contain gluten and other anti-nutrients to which many are sensitive. These anti-nutrients can promote inflammation, especially in the gut. Processed grain foods also usually include seed oils and other nasty additives and preservatives.6

In addition to dietary tweaks, regular movement, avoiding prolonged periods of stillness and exercising at a moderate intensity level for 2-5 hours per week will also improve metabolic health markers.

Not only will improving metabolic health improve your chances of experiencing a milder dose of Covid-19, but it will also prime your immune system, making a favourable response to a vaccine more likely.

If you have any questions or would like further reading on this important subject, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

By Simon Coghlan MSc, BSc Physio, DipMedAc


1. Stefan N, Birkenfeld AL, Schulze MB, Ludwig DS. Obesity and impaired metabolic health in patients with COVID-19. Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 2020 Jul;16(7):341-2.

2. Favre G, Legueult K, Pradier C, Raffaelli C, Ichai C, Iannelli A, Redheuil A, Lucidarme O, Esnault V. Visceral fat is associated to the severity of COVID-19. Metabolism. 2021 Feb 1;115:154440.

3. Zheng KI, Gao F, Wang XB, Sun QF, Pan KH, Wang TY, Ma HL, Chen YP, Liu WY, George J, Zheng MH. Obesity as a risk factor for greater severity of COVID-19 in patients with metabolic associated fatty liver disease. Metabolism. 2020 Jul;108:154244.

4. Taubes G. The case against sugar. Anchor Books; 2017 Dec 5.

5. Shanahan C. Deep nutrition: Why your genes need traditional food. Flatiron Books; 2017 Jan 3.

6. Perlmutter D. Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar-Your Brain's Silent Killers. Hachette UK; 2014 Jan 16.

Image by Mary Pahlke from Pixabay


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