Study shows clear link between obesity, Covid-19 severity

New research adds to the growing body of evidence that patients with obesity are facing more serious Covid-19 disease and higher mortality risk than patients without obesity.

At the beginning of April, both general and intensive care admissions for Covid-19 began to rise sharply in Lille University Hospital (LUH), and across France and other European countries.

“Our data show that the chances of increasing to more severe disease increase with BMI, to the point where almost all intensive care COVID-19 patients with severe obesity will end up on a ventilator,” said study author Francois Pattou from the LUH in France.

An analysis conducted by the LUH included 124 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions with Covid-19, and compared them with 306 patients who had been in ICU for other reasons, without Covid-19.

The data showed that among ICU patients with Covid-19, around half had obesity (BMI above 30), with a quarter having severe obesity (BMI of 35 or above).

Most of the remaining patients (around 40 per cent) were overweight, with only around 10 per cent of patients in the healthy weight range (BMI 25 or under).

Among the non-Covid-19 ICU patients, the story was very different: a quarter had obesity or severe obesity; a further quarter was overweight, and around half fell into the healthy weight range.

A similar trend emerged regarding which ICU patients with Covid-19 had to be put on ventilators. Of the 89 requiring mechanical ventilation, more than half had obesity or severe obesity, while most of the other patients were overweight.

According to the study, patients with a BMI in the healthy range of 25 and under made up less than 10 per cent of patients needing a ventilator.

Looking specifically at the individual BMI groups, almost all patients Covid-19 ICU patients with severe obesity (87 per cent) needed a ventilator, dropping to 75 per cent for ‘regular’ obesity (BMI 30-35), 60 per cent for patients in the overweight category, and 47 per cent for those in the healthy BMI range.

The study was scheduled to be presented at The European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) online conference from September 1-4.

Recently, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that Covid-19 patients hospitalised with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes were over three times more likely to die from the viral disease.

Earlier, another research published in the European Journal of Endocrinology, also found that the risk of greater Covid-19 severity and death is higher in people with any obese body mass index (BMI).