Study finds obesity is not associated with Covid-19 deaths

A new international study has shown that obesity or an increased body mass index (BMI) is not associated with increased mortality in Covid-19 patients.

Previously, various studies informed major health organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that obesity increases the risk of severe illness from Covid-19.

According to WHO, which released data based on the study, conducted in France, the odds of being severely affected by Covid-19 were seven times higher in patients with obesity. 

The CDC also released a study that showed that obesity tripled the chances of hospitalisation when a person was infected with Covid-19.

By November 2020, the CDC reported that since the beginning of the pandemic, obesity coupled with Covid-19 was responsible for 30.2% of Covid-19 hospitalisations in the US.

Obesity decreases lung capacity and makes ventilation more difficult, while Covid-19 moves down the respiratory tract, which consists of the lungs and windpipe.

While this new study led by Professor Bruce M Biccard does not contradict the findings of both WHO and the CDC with regards to hospitalisations of Covid-19 patients that were obese, it focuses solely on mortality and exhibits that other comorbidities are far more responsible than obesity for Covid-19 deaths.

The study shows that 40% of patients are more likely to die with a history of smoking, 54% are more likely to die with high blood pressure, 41% are more likely to die with diabetes and 75% are more likely to die with respiratory disease than patients without these risk factors.

The study found that reported associations between the male sex and increasing BMI are not supported by this meta-analysis of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU).

However, it must be noted that the study has still listed an increased BMI as a continuous risk factor in Covid-19 patients who were admitted to ICU.

Obesity, coupled with Covid-19, is not as harmful to people as previous studies have shown. However, obese patients are at an increased risk for developing many medical problems, including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. These diseases become more dangerous when a person is infected with Covid-19.

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Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia
Eyaaz Matwadia is a member of the Mail & Guardian's online team.

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