Obesity leads to hospitalisation/death from COVID-19

March 17, 2021
Obesity may leads to hospitalisation/death from COVID-19

Epidemiologists have noted a distinct correlation between body weight and COVID-19 severity from the early days of the pandemic, and now, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that more than three-quarters of people presenting at a hospital with COVID-19 were either obese or overweight.

It is unsurprising that obesity should be linked to greater rates of hospitalisation and death as obesity is a common metabolic disease often linked to heart disease and diabetes; other conditions that certainly increase one’s risk for suffering severe COVID-19.

Building on a series of research suggesting COVID-19 disease severity is associated with an increasing Body Mass Index (BMI), CDC’s study looked at 148,494 adults presenting at a hospital with COVID-19 in the US between March and December 2020 – nearly 79.1% of those patients were either overweight or obese.

The study also found those with a BMI between 23 and 25 (near the upper end of the healthy range) were at the lowest risk of hospitalisation or death, while patients who were underweight, with a BMI of around 15, were 20% more likely to be hospitalised for COVID-19 compared to those with a healthy weight.

In addition, according to an expansive report by the World Obesity Federation, which looked at COVID-19 mortality rates across more than 160 countries those with more than 50% of its population classified as overweight or obese displayed dramatically higher rates of death.It also suggests the association between obesity and severe disease is not due to factors such as better reporting of COVID-19 deaths, national wealth, or overall proportions of older citizens.

Meanwhile, at least 29 states in the US have included obesity as a qualifying risk factor for the first stage of vaccine roll-out. In those states, citizens with a BMI higher than 30 are eligible to move to the front of the queue for COVID-19 vaccination.

However, some researchers are now asking whether the current COVID-19 vaccines will be completely effective in obese individuals as antibody responses were suggested to be blunted in overweight and obese subjects following COVID-19 vaccination.

“Although patients with obesity can produce adequate antibodies, multiple studies show they have a lower level of those B and T cells following an infection with the H1N1 influenza. This can alter the typical immune response, leaving the body one step behind after the virus invades. An important question is whether this altered immune response is also present after a COVID-19 infection,” noted Cate Varney, from the University of Virginia Varney.

“And because of this, we want to know whether the vaccine will be as effective in patients with obesity for as long as other patients who do not suffer from this disease.”

The CDC report concluded that “continued strategies” will be needed to ensure community access to nutrition and physical activity opportunities that promote and support a healthy BMI. “Preventing COVID-19 in adults with higher BMIs and their close contacts remains important and includes multifaceted protection measures such as masking, as well as continued vaccine prioritisation and outreach for this population,” it said.

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Category: Features, Health alert

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