Obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for hospitalization and death from COVID-19, says a panoply of research, mostly from the United States, where 40% of the adult population are considered obese according to the CDC.
A meta analysis conducted from English and Chinese academic databases turned over 1,733 studies and revealed that obese individuals are 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to be hospitalized, 74% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, and 48% more likely to die, from COVID-19.
Obesity is increasing, and not decreasing, in prevalence in almost every country on earth, the authors note. This is especially true in English speaking countries, Western Europe, and some others across Asia and North Africa. Obesity is a significant comorbidity factor for COVID-19, as obesity increases your risk for other comorbidity factors such as high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.
In a study conducted on 287 COVID-19 positive patients from 2 seperate hospitals in New Orleans, metabolic syndrome was “significantly associated” with a ICU admittance, being placed on a ventilator, and mortality.
One of the reasons for this is that when fat accumulates on the body, it creeps up the abdomen, according to a report in Science Magazine, towards the diaphragm — a muscle that covers the bottom of the ribcage. As the fat tissue raises the diaphragm up, it removes some of the space the diaphragm creates that allows the lungs to expand, thus restricting breathing.
Obesity also converts immune cells into adipose cells. Adipose cells are fat cells which infiltrate organs where immune cells are commonly produced, resulting in weaker and less-effective immune cells.
The harm of this was demonstrated in a study of seasonal flu which found that even among vaccinated individuals, obesity created a 100% increase in the chance of developing flu-like symptoms compared to normal body-mass index.
This compliment of different studies demonstrates that in this moment in time there’s no doubt COVID-19 could be overcome much easier in a population that maintains a normal body-mass index, and that obesity doesn’t just put you at risk for a number of undesirable health outcomes on its own, but creates a more vulnerable state where pathogens that might appear in the future, can thrive.