New research shows that obesity is associated with a substantial increased risk of death from Covid-19. However, it also found that the risk of death from coronavirus associated with obesity is not uniform among those who are obese, but instead disproportionately affects men and people under 60 years of age.
In a study published in ‘Annals of Internal Medicine’, researchers looked at the electronic health records of 6,916 Kaiser Permanente Southern California members who tested positive for Covid-19 between February 13 and May 2. The mean patient age was 49 years and mean BMI was 30.5. A BMI of 30 to 39 is considered obese, 40 to 44 is severely obese, and 45 or higher is extremely obese.
The study found that patients who were severely obese had nearly 3 times the risk of death and those who were extremely obese had over 4 times the risk of death from Covid-19 compared to those of normal weight.
Severely and extremely obese people who were 60 years old and younger had a substantially higher risk of death than severely obese people over age 60. Severely and extremely obese men had a very high risk of death, while women had no increased risk of death associated with obesity.
Sameer B. Murali, MD, an internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center and senior author on this study, noted that when physicians know more precisely who is at elevated risk of death, they can put in place treatment plans and interventions to modify that risk, rather than treating every patient the same.
“By viewing the risk posed by obesity through the prism of Covid-19, this study advances the characterisation of obesity as a disease that demands a public health and clinical response similar to that for diabetes or heart disease,” he said.
Adding, “One pandemic is expanding our understanding of another, and we hope this work not only provides physicians and patients a better grasp of the risk obesity poses in the setting of Covid-19, but also to overall health.”