“Obesity plays a profound role in risk for death from COVID-19, particularly in male patients and younger populations.” the researchers stated in the study in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The study suggests that a high body mass index (BMI) was more strongly associated with novel coronavirus deaths in men and younger adults compared to women and older adult patients. The correlation was independent of other comorbidities related to obesity such as hypertension, diabetes, chronic lung or renal disease, heart failure, and myocardial infarction, which are risk factors for poor outcomes in coronavirus cases, according to a news release.
Researchers analyzed 6,916 electronic health records of Kaiser Permanente Southern California patients who tested positive for novel coronavirus during the period from February 13, 2020, through May 2, 2020, according to the released report by Kaiser Permanente. In the study, the average BMI was 30.5 and those with a 45 or higher were considered extremely obese, 40 to 44 is severely obese and a BMI of 30 to 39 was considered obese, according to the health system’s report.
The researchers found that patients who were extremely obese were 4 times more likely to die from novel coronavirus related death and those severely obese were nearly 3 times likely, compared to those with a normal weight range, according to the release.
“By viewing the risk posed by obesity through the prism of COVID-19, this study advances the characterization of obesity as a disease that demands a public health and clinical response similar to that for diabetes or heart disease,” senior author Sameer B. Murali, an internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center, stated on the health institution’s website. “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 COVID19, but also to overall health.
However, the study found that COVID-19 related deaths were more prevalent in the severely and extremely obese category who were 60 years old and younger, compared to those who were severely obese and over 60 years old, who were less at risk.
Meanwhile, women had no increased risk of death associated with high BMI. The researchers stated they did control for the variety of risks previously reported in the literature and did not find increased risk of COVID-19 related deaths associated with Black or Latinx identity by itself.
The study authors said this study will help physicians identify who is at a high-risk level of death from COVID-19 and they can then implement proper treatment plans and interventions to modify that risk.
“Our main objective in this paper was to understand risk related to obesity, and obesity-associated chronic conditions in our health care system,” researcher Sara Y. Tartof, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, stated in a report.
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has obesity (BMI of 30 or higher) listed as a risk factor for increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness.