Endocrine and metabolic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reviews in endocrine & metabolic disorders. 2020;21(4):495-507

Plain language summary

Endocrine and metabolic related diseases such as diabetes and obesity may increase the risk of developing severe Covid-19 and as a result these diseases could be severely affected by Covid-19 infection. This very large review paper looked at over 100 studies and outlined the interrelationship between Covid-19 infection and several endocrine diseases. Diabetes, obesity, pituitary-hypothalamic function, thyroid function, Cushing's syndrome and adrenal function were all reviewed. No aim was stated. Data on individuals with obesity and diabetes indicated an increased risk for severe Covid-19 infection, hospitalisation and mortality. Data surrounding pituitary-hypothalamic function, thyroid function, Cushing's syndrome and adrenal function was less abundant, however neurological issues in Covid-19 patients suggested an involvement of the pituitary and hypothalamus. In lieu of sufficient data the author commented on the possible similarities between severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus with the Covid-19 virus. A number of management strategies were discussed such as the use of vitamin D, oxytocin and melatonin, however the authors commented on the lack of data regarding oxytocin and melatonin in Covid-19 patients, but mechanistic data suggested they might be of use. No overall conclusions were drawn on the findings. Clinicians could use this paper to understand how patients with pre-existing endocrine and metabolic conditions may be at a higher risk of more severe Covid-19 and if contracted could exacerbate their pre-existing condition. These patients could require constant monitoring and additional measures to avoid contracting Covid-19. Supplements such as vitamin D, oxytocin or melatonin could be therapeutic, however more data needs to be reviewed.


COVID-19 infection has tremendously impacted our daily clinical practice as well as our social living organization. Virtually all organs and biological systems suffer from this new coronavirus infection, either because the virus targets directly specific tissues or because of indirect effects. Endocrine diseases are not an exception and some of endocrine organs are at risk of direct or indirect lesion by COVID-19. Although there is still no evidence of higher predisposition to contract the infection in patients with diabetes and/or obesity, the coexistence of these conditions contributes to a worse prognosis because both conditions confer an impaired immunologic system. Cytokines storm can be amplified by these two latter conditions thereby leading to multisystemic failure and death. Glycaemic control has been demonstrated to be crucial to avoiding long hospital stays, ICU requirement and also prevention of excessive mortality. Endocrine treatment modifications as a consequence of COVID-19 infection are required in a proactive manner, in order to avoid decompensation and eventual hospital admission. This is the case of diabetes and adrenal insufficiency in which prompt increase of insulin dosage and substitutive adrenal steroids through adoption of the sick day's rules should be warranted, as well as easy contact with the health care provider through telematic different modalities. New possible endocrinological targets of COVID-19 have been recently described and warrant a full study in the next future.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Hormonal ; Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Covid-19
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article ; Review