Obesity Boosts Risks in COVID-19 From Diagnosis to Death.
A new analysis of existing research confirms a stark link between excess weight and COVID-19: People with obesity are much more likely to be diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, undergo hospitalization and ICU admission, and die.
Obese patients faced the greatest bump in risk on the hospitalization front, with their odds of being admitted listed as 113% higher. The odds of diagnosis, ICU admission, and death were 46% higher (odds ratio [OR], 1.46; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.30-1.65; P < .0001); 74% higher (OR, 1.74, CI, 1.46-2.08, P < .0001); 48% (OR, 1.48, CI, 1.22–1.80, P < .001, all pooled analyses and 95% CI), respectively. All differences were highly significantly different, investigators reported in a systematic review and meta-analysis published online Aug. 26 in Obesity Reviews.
“Essentially, these are pretty scary statistics,” nutrition researcher and study lead author Barry M. Popkin, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health, said in an interview. “Other studies have talked about an increase in mortality, and we were thinking there’d be a little increase like 10% – nothing like 48%.”
The authors of the new review launched their project to better understand the link between obesity and COVID-19 “all the way from being diagnosed to death,” Dr. Popkin said, adding that the meta-analysis is the largest of its kind to examine the link.
Dr. Popkin and colleagues analyzed 75 studies during January to June 2020 that tracked 399,461 patients (55% of whom were male) diagnosed with COVID-19. They found that 18 of 20 studies linked obesity with a 46% higher risk of diagnosis, but Dr. Popkin cautioned that this may be misleading. “I suspect it’s because they’re sicker and getting tested more for COVID,” he said. “I don’t think obesity enhances your likelihood of getting COVID. We don’t have a biological rationale for that.”
The researchers examined 19 studies that explored a link between obesity and hospitalization; all 19 found a higher risk of hospitalization in patients with obesity (pooled OR, 2.13). Twenty-one of 22 studies that looked at ICU admissions discovered a higher risk for patients with obesity (pooled OR, 1.74). And 27 of 35 studies that examined COVID-19 mortality found a higher death rate in patients with obesity (pooled OR, 1.48).
The review also looked at 14 studies that examined links between obesity and administration of invasive mechanical ventilation. All the studies found a higher risk for patients with obesity (pooled OR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.38-1.99; P < .0001).