People who are obese more likely to have severe COVID-19 outcomes: study

Researchers out of the U.K. are reporting that people who are obese are more likely to have adverse outcomes from COVID-19.

In the study published Thursday in the Lancet, researchers from the University of Oxford looked at data from 6,910,695 people in England who have had at least one recorded body mass index (BMI) measurement. Within this cohort, 13,503 people were admitted to hospitals in England due to COVID-19 between January and April 2020, with 1,601 ending up in intensive care units (ICUs).

Researchers found that each excess BMI unit above 23 kg/m⊃2; was associated with an increased risk of hospitalization, admission to the ICU and death.

The study also adjusted for confounding variables, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, smoking status and pre-existing health conditions. For Black patients, researchers say the risks associated with higher BMI "were amplified" compared to white patients in the cohort.

BMI was also found to be a greater risk factor for patients under 40 years of age than for older patients over 80.

"Our findings from this large population-based cohort emphasize that excess weight is associated with substantially increased risks of severe COVID-19 outcomes, and one of the most important modifiable risk factors identified to date," the study states.

Researchers also called for BMI to be considered a factor when determining who to prioritize for the vaccines and that weight reduction interventions may help reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes.

In Canada, only the provinces of Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta list "severe obesity," defined by a BMI of 40 kg/m⊃2; or greater, as a priority group for vaccination.