Study says obesity and age highest COVID risk factors

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Scientists at New York University have been studying Covid 19 hospital admissions in the city. Specifically, they looked at 4103 people who were hospitalised during March and who tested positive for Covid 19.

After age, they found that obesity was the largest single factor in determining whether a person with the disease would need to be hospitalised.

The lead author of the study* wrote:

“The chronic condition with the strongest association with critical illness was obesity, with a substantially higher odds ratio than any cardiovascular or pulmonary disease”.

Christopher M Petrelli of the NYU Grossman School

Why an increased risk in obese people?

The authors think that the increased risk in obese people could be related to heightened inflammation. Obesity has already been shown to be a pro-inflammatory condition. This is important as Covid 19 is a disease that causes inflammation in the lungs and airways.

This is an important finding as it could go on to provide another reason why the virus impacts some nations more than others.

Differing obesity rates make it hard to compare countries

If we accept that age and obesity are the two major factors associated with hospital admission, ahead of heart and lung disease, it means that the age profile and obesity rates for a country will have a major impact on the mortality rate in that country, all other things being equal.

A look at obesity rates by country give an indication as to how much this could skew national outcomes:

Obesity rate by country (measured by BMI above 30)**

  • United States of America – 36.2%
  • UK – 27.8%
  • Ireland – 25.3%
  • Spain – 23.8%
  • Germany – 22.3%
  • France – 21.6%
  • Italy – 19.9%
  • China – 6.2%
  • South Korea – 4.7%

These data show the huge difference in obesity rates from one country to another. In turn this will impact on the differing numbers of people needing hospital treatment when they are infected with Covid 19, and also the extent of the hospital treatment they will need.

Put simply, the demographics of each country will place differing demands on their healthcare systems.

*‘Factors Associated with Hospitalisation and critical illness among 4103 patients with Covid 19 Disease in New York City’. New York University Langone School.
**Global obesity levels. www.procon.org

Picture of Martyn Berrett

Martyn Berrett

Martyn is the former MD of Healthier Weight. Throughout his tenure he observed many bariatric procedures and took part in several research projects so has a unique perspective on all things weight loss.

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