Study Finds Obese People Are More Like to Die or Become Dangerously Ill from Coronavirus

FILE PHOTO: A sign reminding to wear protective masks is painted on the pavement of Cologne’s main shopping street Hohe Strasse (High Street) as people wear masks while doing their Christmas shopping amid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic in Cologne, Germany, December, 12, 2020. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

Over the past year, many scientific teams around the world have reported that obese people who contract the coronavirus are especially likely to become dangerously ill.

Now, a large new study, of nearly 150,000 adults at more than 200 hospitals across the United States, paints a more detailed picture of the connection between weight and Covid-19 outcomes.

The study, performed by a team of researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has confirmed that obesity significantly increases the risk for hospitalization and death among those who contract the virus. And among those who are obese, the risk increases as a patient’s body mass index, or B.M.I., a ratio of weight to height, increases. Patients with a B.M.I. of 45 or higher, which corresponds to severe obesity, were 33 percent more likely to be hospitalized and 61 percent more likely to die than those who were at a healthy weight, the researchers found.

“The findings of the study highlight the serious clinical public health implications of elevated B.M.I., and they suggest the continued need for intensive management of Covid-19 illness, especially among patients affected by severe obesity,” said the lead author, Lyudmyla Kompaniyets, a health economist at the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the C.D.C.

But the relationship between weight and outcomes is nuanced. Covid-19 patients who were underweight were also more likely to be hospitalized than those who were at a healthy weight, although they were not more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or to die.

Dr. Kompaniyets and her colleagues used a database of Covid-19 cases to identify 148,494 adults who received a diagnosis of the disease at American hospitals from last March to December. They calculated the B.M.I. of each patient and looked for correlations between B.M.I. and a variety of serious outcomes, including hospitalization, I.C.U. admission, mechanical ventilation and death.

They found that obesity, which is defined as a B.M.I. of 30 or higher, increased the risk of both hospitalization and death. Patients with a B.M.I. of 30 to 34.9 were just 7 percent more likely to be hospitalized and 8 percent more likely to die than people who were at a healthy weight, but the risks increased sharply as B.M.I. rose.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, Emily Anthes