The CEO and co-founder of Sweetgreen, a fast casual restaurant chain that sells salads, was accused of “fat phobia” after suggesting in a social media post that shedding fat and becoming healthier is a better solution to the COVID-19 pandemic than controversial face mask and vaccine mandates.
Sweetgreen CEO Jonathan Neman raised concerns about the connection between obesity and COVID-19 complications in a now-deleted LinkedIn post last Tuesday.
“78% of hospitalizations due to COVID are Obese and Overweight people. Is there an underlying problem that perhaps we have not given enough attention to? Is there another way to think about how we tackle ‘healthcare’ by addressing the root cause?” Neman wrote.
A worker sets up the salad bar inside a Sweetgreen Inc. restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts. (Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Noting that COVID “is here to stay for the foreseeable future,” Neman added that instead of focusing on “preventing infections,” we should “focus on overall health.”
“We have been quick to put in place mask and vaccine mandates but zero conversation on HEALTH MANDATES. All the while we have printed unlimited money to soften the blow the shutdowns have caused to our country,” Neman wrote. “What if we focused on the ROOT CAUSE and used this pandemic as a catalyst for creating a healthier future??”
Floating possible solutions, Neman suggested taxing processed foods and refined sugars “to pay for the impact of the pandemic” or even outlawing “the food that is making us sick.”
As Insider noted, critics accused Neman of “fat phobia” and called his post “incredibly fat-phobic” and “disgusting.”
What do data show?
While Neman’s post may not be politically correct, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified a strong link between COVID complications and obesity.
In fact, the CDC said in March that nearly 80% of people who were hospitalized, needed a ventilator, or died from COVID were overweight or obese. And while experts disagree that body mass index is an accurate metric for determining what constitutes “overweight” or “obese,” the key finding in the CDC’s study holds sturdy: having more extra fat increases the chances of experiencing COVID complications.
The CDC states that obesity triples the chances of being hospitalized due to COVID because obesity “is linked to impaired immune function” and “decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult.”