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Impact of obesity on COVID-19 outcomes

Last updated 11-05-2020

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt around the world, this page provides links to emerging evidence that suggests obesity may be a risk factor for becoming seriously ill with the virus. Unlike other pages on the hub, this page is not a synthesis of the evidence, rather it is a central place to source relevant studies. Studies showing links between obesity and hospitalisation, critical illness, use of mechanical ventilation and death are provided below. These studies may not have been evaluated for their quality (how methodologically sound), given the evidence is at an early stage.

Rationale

  • This letter to the editor discusses evidence from the H1N1 influenza pandemic showing that people with obesity represented a large proportion of those hospitalised and who were seriously ill and died. It cautions the likely similarities with COVID-19 and discusses the significance of this for the U.S with its high rates of obesity (Dietz and Santos-Burgoa, 2020)
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.22818

Hospitalisation/critical illness

Mechanical ventilation

  • This study of 124 patients admitted to intensive care in a French hospital with COVID-19 found a high frequency of obesity and disease severity increased with body mass index (BMI). The need for invasive mechanical ventilation was associated with severe obesity (Simonnet, Chetboun et al, 2020)
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/oby.22831

Death

  • An analysis of data from 112 COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular disease admitted to hospital in China included 15 patients who were overweight or obese. The BMI of those admitted into ICU were higher than those that were not admitted to ICU and overweight/obesity was more prevalent among non-survivors than survivors (Peng, Meng et al, 2020, abstract only in English)
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32120458/