COVID-19 and obesity go hand in hand according to several new studies. In fact, the data that is accumulating on risk factors and mortality are pointing to obesity as being one of the leading culprits.
COVID-19 Risk Factors: Obesity
We now know that pre-existing conditions like obesity increase the risk of chances of not being about to ward off the coronavirus.
It’s clear that age and chronic disease make bouts of the pandemic coronavirus more severe — and even deadly — but obesity might also put even younger people at higher risk, a pair of new studies suggest.
Studies on the Link COVID-19 and Obesity
Here are the studies that show the strong link between COVID-19 and obesity:
One study was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Lighter, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at NYU School of Medicine in New York City.
- The researchers suspect that inflammation throughout the body linked to obesity could be a powerful factor in the severity of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
- In fact, they believe that it could even be more significant than heart or lung disease.
- According to Dr. Lighter: “This has relevance in the U.S., where 40% of Americans are obese, and will no doubt contribute to increased morbidity and likely mortality, compared to other countries.”
- The patients studied were obese, and although none had diabetes or heart disease, although they might be on the verge of them.
- People under age 60 are generally considered at low risk for COVID-19, yet her team found that those who are obese are twice as likely to be hospitalized for the disease.
- And, compared to patients whose weight is normal, those who are morbidly obese are twice as likely to need acute care and three times more likely to be confined to the intensive care unit, the study found.
Dr. Lighter analyzed the results as follows:
- People who are obese have higher rates of obstructive sleep apnea, asthma, restrictive lung disease reflux that may be affecting the respiratory system, which takes a hit from an infection like coronavirus.
- Younger people who are obese are at high risk. So, they should be reminded to wash hands frequently, practice social distancing and wear a face mask when they go out, Lighter said.
The second study, led by Dr. Christopher Petrilli of NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City, suggested the link with obesity may owe to its role in causing inflammation. Chronic inflammation is a factor in many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
According to Dr. David Katz, founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center:
- “Age and prior health status are important predictors of the risks of severe coronavirus infection and death.”
- He believes that basing analyses only on those people with symptoms severe enough to warrant medical attention is not sufficient.
- Instead, he advocates for testing a random sample of the general population to know what’s relevant. That would allow us to know how many people in each category by age, health and weight were infected, with or without symptoms.
A Wake-Up Call to Pay Attention to Your Health
Katz is calling for national policies that support a “stay safe and get healthier” campaign.
He says that “The acute threat of coronavirus highlights some chronic threats to our health that may suddenly matter more, along with an urgent timeline.
Meanwhile, anything you can do to improve your health while in lockdown might pay big dividends. We can’t change our chronological age, but even short-term efforts to improve health and weight while sheltering in place may enhance our ability to get through this safely.
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