Even a “modest weight gain” can increase the risk of contracting a severe form of Covid-19, researchers have found.
Since the coronavirus pandemic first emerged obesity and accompanying conditions such as diabetes have been recognised as a major risk factor for contracting a more severe form of the infection.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson pledged to wage a war on obesity after admitting that his own battle with the bulge may have played a part in his own brush with Covid-19.
Now several international studies are now pointing to the fact that even being moderately overweight can increase the risk of being hospitalised for the disease.
A study carried out by researchers at the biotech Genentech in the US analysed the records of more than 17,000 patients in the US and looked at various factors affecting severity of the disease. It found that while 48 per cent of those who were admitted to hospital were obese a third (29 per cent) were overweight.
In another study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from University College London studied the records of more than 300,000 people in England to work out risk factors for those who had been hospitalised with Covid-19.
They found that while people with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 and over – the point at which people are classed as severely obese – were most likely to be hospitalised, those who were merely overweight – a BMI of 25 to 30 – were also at risk.
“Many people don’t realise they creep into that overweight category,” Mark Hammer, an exercise physiologist at University College London and lead author of the study told the journal Science.
The study found there were 42.7 hospitalisations per 10,000 people among those who were severely obese. This compares to 23.3 hospitalisations per 10,000 people in the moderately obese group and 19.1 in those who were just overweight.
The study authors said that even those with “modest weight gain” were more likely to be hospitalised. “Since over two thirds of Westernised society are overweight or obese, this potentially presents a major risk factor for severe Covid-19 infection and may have implications for policy,” the authors wrote.
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