- Several coronavirus risk factors can lead to complications from COVID-19 and death, but obesity could be even more dangerous than previously thought.
- New study says overweight people who develop COVID-19 are more likely to go to hospital and be admitted to the ICU than others. They are also more likely to die from complications from COVID-19.
- The risks of coronavirus don’t end there, as obesity could reduce the protection that the future vaccine could offer.
The new coronavirus primarily kills people who suffer from other health conditions that could reduce the body’s ability to fight the virus and clear the infection. But there are exceptions to this rule, as people who were otherwise perfectly healthy have succumbed after being infected. If you think you are in the latter category but are overweight, you could have two huge issues.
First of all, obesity alone is a medical condition and a risk factor for COVID-19. A new article offers even more evidence to support the idea that obese people may be worse off after COVID-19 infection than people who don’t have a weight problem. Second, obesity can interfere with vaccine effectiveness once coronavirus vaccines are available, just as it happens with the flu.
The new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, via The Guardian, says obese people are 113% more likely to end up in hospital due to COVID-19. In addition, they are 74% more likely to be admitted to intensive care and 48% more likely to die from complications from COVID-19 than other patients.
Professor Barry Popkin told the newspaper he was shocked at the results as the risk of death was significantly higher than initially thought. “It’s a pretty big effect for me,” he says. “It’s basically a 50% increase. That’s a pretty high frightening number. All of this is actually – much higher than I expected.
“That, ICU admission and mortality is really high,” he added. “They all shocked me, to be honest.”
Scientists performed a meta-analysis of available data from various studies around the world, including Italy, France, UK, US and China.
It’s not just obesity that’s at stake here, as obesity is often associated with other underlying conditions that can be directly related to it. Medical problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes could further complicate COVID-19.
“All of these factors can influence immune cell metabolism, which determines how bodies respond to pathogens, such as the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus,” said study co-author Prof Melinda Beck. “Obese people are also more likely to suffer from physical ailments that make it more difficult to fight this disease, such as sleep apnea, which increases pulmonary hypertension, or a body mass index which increases difficulties in a hospital environment. with intubation. ”
Popkin also addressed the COVID-19 vaccination, warning that obesity could prevent these patients from getting the most benefit from treatment. “We know that a COVID vaccine will have a positive effect on obese people, but we suspect from all of our knowledge from the SARS vaccine and influenza vaccine tests that it will have a diminished benefit compared to to others, ”he said.
The professor said they had convinced the US CDC that obese people were not getting the full benefit of flu shots, which resulted in a change in protocol. People who are overweight are given a stronger vaccine that includes an additional injection. Popkin said the developers of COVID-19 vaccines should check the data on influenza vaccines for obese people and ensure that coronavirus vaccines work best for obese people.
“We are not saying that the vaccine will be ineffective in populations with obesity, but rather that obesity should be seen as a modifying factor when performing vaccine tests,” Beck said for the UNC paper. “Even a less protective vaccine will still provide some level of immunity.”
Scientists also explained that the socio-economic effects of the pandemic have a direct impact on diet and obesity. People move less than before, due to guidelines that advise people to spend more time at home. Additionally, not all may be able to access or afford healthy food, given the economic hardships some people have experienced in recent months. “Not only are we no longer at home and under more stress due to the pandemic, but we also don’t visit the grocery store as often, which means the demand for highly processed junk food and cheaper and more sugary drinks. shelves. -stable increased, ”says Popkin. “These inexpensive foods are high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat, and they’re high in highly refined carbohydrates, all of which increase not only the risk of excess weight gain, but also major noncommunicable diseases.”
The expert believes that changes in food policy could have an impact on diets and improve the chances of obese people to fight the disease. “Given the significant threat COVID-19 poses to obese people, healthy food policies can play a supporting – and particularly important – role in mitigating COVID-19-related mortality and morbidity” , did he declare.