Obesity is linked to severe forms of COVID-19

A report by the World Obesity Federation claims that 9 out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 occurred in countries with high obesity rates. Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of severe or fatal COVID-19 cases.

By addressing global obesity trends, hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths would have been prevented

A report by the World Obesity Federation claims that 9 out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 occurred in countries with high obesity rates. Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19 or death from the disease.

According to a report by the World Obesity Federation, the death rate from COVID-19 is about 10 times higher in countries where half or more of the population is overweight,

The recently published report entitled 'COVID-19 and Obesity: The 2021 Atlas' (downloadable here) found that being overweight is a 'highly significant predictor' of developing complications if you get COVID-19, such as hospitalisation, admission to intensive care and the need for mechanical ventilation, as well as being a 'predictor of death' from the disease.

Researchers say that countries where less than 40% of people are overweight had fewer deaths related to the new coronavirus, while countries such as the UK, the US and Italy, where more than 50% of the population is overweight, had a much higher death rate.

The report states that 'an overweight population is an unhealthy population, a pandemic ready to explode'. The report reported that in the UK, 73.7% of the 10,465 critically ill COVID-19 patients were overweight or obese. By contrast, Vietnam, which has the lowest level of overweight people, has the second lowest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world.

The report also highlighted that overweight and obesity could be risk factors for dangerous outcomes in people under 60. Those with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 34 are twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care as those with a BMI below 30.

According to the authors, reducing one of the main risk factors, overweight in this case, would have translated into much less pressure for the health services in coping with the COVID-19 response. They also suggest that obese or overweight people should be prioritised for testing and vaccination.

Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Obesity Federation, said: "The decades-long failure to address the root causes of obesity is clearly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths that could have been avoided”. Information gathered over the past two decades has also shown that obesity is linked to worse outcomes in several infectious diseases, including MERS and H1N1 influenza.

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Lobstein T. COVID-19 and Obesity: The 2021 Atlas. World Obesity Federation. March 2021

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