Background: The persistence of symptoms for ≥12 weeks after a COVID-19 infection is known as Long COVID (LC), a condition with unclear pathophysiology and no proven treatments to date. Living with obesity is a risk factor for LC and has symptoms which may overlap with and aggravate LC. Methods: ReDIRECT is a remotely delivered trial assessing whether weight management can reduce LC symptoms. We recruited people with LC and BMI >27kg/m2. The intervention was delivered remotely by dietitians, with online data collection (medical and dietary history, COVID-19 infection and vaccination, body composition, LC history/symptoms, blood pressure, quality of life, sociodemographic data). Participants self-selected the dominant LC symptoms they most wanted to improve from the intervention. Results: Participants (n=234) in England (64%) and Scotland (30%) were mainly women (85%) of white ethnicity (90%), with 13% living in the 20% most deprived areas, a mean age of 46 (SD10) years, and median BMI of 35kg/m2 (IQR 32-40). Before starting the study, 30% reported more than one COVID-19 infection (82% confirmed with one or more positive tests). LC Diagnosis was mainly by GPs (71%), other healthcare professionals (9%), or self-diagnosed (21%). The median total number of symptoms was 6 (IQR 4–8). Self-selected dominant LC symptoms included fatigue (54%), breathlessness (16%), pain (12%), anxiety/depression (1%) and "other" (17%). At baseline, 82% were taking medication, 57% reported 1+ other medical conditions. Quality of life was poor; 20% were on long-term sick leave or reduced working hours. Most (92%) reported having gained weight since contracting COVID-19 (median weight change +11.5 kg, range -11.5 to +45.3 kg). Conclusions: Symptoms linked to LC and overweight are diverse and complex. Remote trial delivery enabled rapid recruitment across the UK yet certain groups (e.g. men and those from ethnic minority groups) were under-represented. Trial registration: ISRCTN registry (ISRCTN12595520, 25/11/2021).


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Haag, L., Richardson, J., Haig, C., Cunningham, Y., Fraser, H., Brosnahan, N., Ibbotson, T., Omerod, J., White, C., McIntosh, E., O'Donnell, K., Sattar, N., McConnachie, A., Lean, M., Blane, D. & Combet, E. 2024, 'Baseline characteristics in the Remote Diet Intervention to Reduce long-COVID Symptoms Trial (ReDIRECT)', NIHR Open Research, 4(7). https://doi.org/10.3310/nihropenres.13522.1

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Last updated: 14 March 2024
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