Higher Body Weight Linked With Severe COVID-19 Risk: Lancet
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Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19, including higher ICU admissions, according to a study. The researchers noted that this is the first large study to report the effect of bodyweight on the risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19 across the full range of body-mass index (BMI).

The study is based on more than 6.9 million people living in England and included data from over 20,000 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalised or died during the first wave of the pandemic in the country. The team found that the risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19 start rising in people with a BMI above 23 kilogrammes per square metre (kg/m2), which is considered to be in the healthy range.

The risks of hospitalisation were 5 percent higher for each one unit increase in BMI and the risk of ICU admission was 10 percent higher for each unit increase, they said. People who were underweight (BMI less than 18.5) also experienced worse outcomes from COVID-19, they said. The effect of excess weight on the risk of severe COVID-19 was greatest in young people aged 20 to 39 years of age and decreased after age 60, according to the study.

Increasing BMI had very little impact on the risk of severe COVID-19 in people aged over 80 years, the researchers said. However, the overall incidence of severe COVID-19 among people aged 20 to 39 years of age was lower than all other age groups, they said. These findings suggest that vaccination policies should prioritise people with obesity, especially now the vaccine is being rolled out to younger age-groups, the researchers said.

All of the participants included in the study were 20 years or older and had at least one BMI measurement on their record. The average BMI across the whole study group was 26.8 kg/m2. The researchers analysed records between 24 January and 30 April 2020 for outcomes linked to severe COVID-19 disease.

The researchers noted several limitations to their study. The analysis of the impact of BMI may be limited by the smaller sample of people with recent BMI measurements, they said. However, the findings did not change when the researchers excluded BMI measurements that were more than a year old at the start of the study period.

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