Research from the Chaim Sheba Medical Center in Israel found that overweight people – with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 – are 22% more likely to contract the virus.
The figure for obese people – with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 – is 27%.
For those who are morbidly obese, with a BMI equal to or greater than 40, the risk increases by 86%.
Some 26,030 people were tested between March 16 and December 31 of last year and 1,178 positive COVID-19 tests were recorded.
Even after age, gender, and other medical conditions are taken into account, the relationship between BMI and the likelihood of a person testing positive remains significant, the researchers found.
The study authors concluded: “As the BMI rises above normal, the likelihood of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result increases, even after adjusting for a number of patient variables.
“In addition, some of the comorbidities associated with obesity appear to be associated with an increased risk of infection or to be protective. “
People with diabetes were 30% more likely to test positive, while the odds were six times higher among people with high blood pressure.
But the risk was reduced for people with a history of stroke (by 39%), ischemic heart disease (by 55%) and chronic kidney disease (by 45%).
Researchers have not been able to explain this.
In addition, research conducted by the IRCCS Policlinico San Donato research hospital in Italy found that abdominal obesity is more important than general obesity in predicting the severity of chest x-ray results in patients with coronavirus.
Abdominal obesity is the fat around the waist as opposed to general obesity, which is determined by BMI.
Chest x-ray severity scores were calculated by dividing each lung into three areas, each scoring a maximum of three points – zero for normal lung performance and three for poor function.
Some 59% of patients with abdominal obesity had a high score, while this was only true for 35% of patients without abdominal obesity.