Sweetgreen CEO Jonathan Neman caught controversy this week after a viral since-deleted LinkedIn post linked the severity of the coronavirus pandemic with high levels of obesity.
“[Seventy-eight percent] of hospitalizations due to COVID are Obese and Overweight people,” Neman wrote Tuesday citing March data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “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 went on to highlight COVID-19 as an endemic virus “here to stay for the foreseeable future.”
“We cannot run away from it and no vaccine nor mask will save us (in full disclosure I am vaccinated and support others to get vaccinated),” Neman added. “Our best bet is to learn how to best live with it and focus on overall health vs preventing infection.”
The salad giant’s solution? Crack down on the junk food.
“What if we focused on the ROOT CAUSE and used this pandemic as a catalyst for creating a healthier future?” Neman wrote. “What if we made the food that is making us sick illegal? What if we taxed processed food and refined sugar to pay for the impact of the pandemic? What if we incentivized health?”
His solutions might sound like government overreach, but they’re no more intrusive than vaccine mandates and draconian lockdowns that heralded societal self-destruction with the abdication of personal responsibility, all while glossing over the true pandemic that is obesity.
“We clearly have no problem with government overreach on how we live our lives all in the name of ‘health,'” he wrote.
Neman however, was derided as “fat-phobic” and critics mocked the pricey salad chain for proposing Americans deal with the underlying issues that exacerbate the severity of COVID-19.
“This post is disgusting,” one LinkedIn user wrote back, according to Business Insider.
“Yikes, this is incredibly fat-phobic,” wrote another. “Have you considered how our healthcare system systematically underserves people who are considered to be in those groups?”
I just ate a donut and I challenge Jonathan Neman to a die-off. First person to die loses. I'm giving him a ten year head start. https://t.co/WrF30UjqOG
— Matt Boyd (@3PSboyd) September 1, 2021
Vice News, one of the first publications to report the post, mocked Neman as well.
“On Tuesday, the CEO of Sweetgreen, a restaurant chain that sells salads for around $15 a serving, said that the underlying problem with the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 600,000 Americans so far is that most of them were fat,” wrote Edward Ongweso Jr.
But where’s the lie? Most Americans are fat. More than 70 percent of adults 20 and older are overweight, according to the CDC. More than 42 percent of Americans were considered “obese” in 2017-2018. Last week, a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of Southern California found nearly half the nation’s children aged 5-11 are now overweight. And yes, Americans’ excessive weight made the severity of the COVID crisis far worse.
In September last year, Science Magazine highlighted August research which found obese patients stricken with COVID-19 were 113 percent more likely to be hospitalized compared to patients of an otherwise healthy weight. Obese patients were found 74 percent more likely to end up in intensive care units (ICU) and 48 percent more likely to die.
“Since the pandemic began,” the magazine reported, “dozens of studies have reported that many of the sickest COVID-19 patients have been people with obesity.”
And it’s not just complications from COVID-19 that Americans’ excessive weight has exacerbated. Obesity is also a primary culprit to leading causes of premature death, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
A Harvard study out last week concluded “cutting 20 percent of sugar from packaged foods and 40 percent from beverages” alone, “could prevent 2.48 million cardiovascular disease events (such as strokes, heart attacks, cardiac arrests), 490,000 cardiovascular deaths, and 750,000 diabetes cases in the U.S. over the lifetime of the adult population.”
But it’s fat-phobic to point all of this out? If the COVID crisis taught us anything, it’s that an America addicted to carbs, sugar, and Netflix while demanding healthy neighbors stay home might need a little more so-called fat-phobia.