Early on in the pandemic researchers established that obesity was a risk factor for COVID-19. The CDC has it as one of the factors that put you at “increased risk.” Now, a new study has found that even those who are mildly obese—even those with a body mass index (BMI) lingering around 30—are at risk of serious coronavirus infection and even death.
Even Mild Obesity Raises Your Risk
The paper, published this week in the European Journal of Endocrinology, analyzed data on 482 COVID-19 patients in Italy between March and April when the virus peaked in the area.
One-fifth of the patients had a BMI of 30 or over, which falls into the “obese” category. Those closer to 30 are considered “mildly obese” while anyone with a BMI of 40 and over is deemed “severely obese.” Researchers found that even those with a BMI of between 30 to 34.9 were at an increased risk of respiratory failure, and ICU admission, while a BMI of 35—which accounted for 20 patients in the study—”dramatically increases the risk of death,” the authors wrote in the study.
Of all the patients who were deemed obese, 52 percent had respiratory failure, 36 percent were admitted to the ICU, 25 percent were hooked up to a ventilator, and 30 percent died within 30 days of their first symptoms.
Study co-author and bariatric surgeon Dr. Matteo Rottoli, of Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, explained to Newsweek he knew that obesity could be a factor in other diseases. After seeing patients who were young and obese with serious coronavirus infections, he wanted to establish a link.
“Our study showed that even a mild obesity brings a very high risk,” he explained. “The metabolic status of the patients has a primary role in the onset and developing of COVID-19, and obesity is the condition that affects the metabolism the most.”
Use Caution—No Matter Your Weight
He hopes that people who are even just mildly obese with take prevention methods seriously. “The importance of social distancing, the use of the masks, and avoiding gatherings should be stressed even more,” he said. “We don’t know whether losing weight might prevent these risks in people with obesity. However, it is reasonable to think that a healthier person might be able to respond better to the coronavirus infection, and sometimes even losing a few kilograms is enough to improve our metabolic status.” And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 37 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.