If you’re looking for a good reason to shed a few pounds, here’s one that might surprise you: losing weight could help you survive COVID-19.
Stephen O’Rahilly, a prominent expert on obesity and other metabolic disorders, contracted COVID-19 after losing twenty pounds six months prior. In a Washington Post Article, O’Rahilly contributes his weight loss with not feeling the worst side effects of the virus.
According to the CDC, obesity is on the rise and a BMI of over 30 or above increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Updated data on cdc.gov shows those with obesity have three times the risk of being hospitalized if contracted with COVID-19 compared to those with healthy weights.
O’Rahilly, co-director of the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge in Britain, says “It’s clear that we need to think more deeply about what it is about the obese state that makes COVID-19 more deadly.”
According to a New York Times article, a new study analyzing almost 7,000 patients treated at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, found that obesity — especially extreme obesity — was a risk factor in dying from the novel coronavirus. Interestingly, this applies chiefly to men under 60.
New Study Links Obesity With Higher COVID-19 Risk
The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed people who were morbidly obese and had COVID-19 were 60% more likely to require mechanical ventilation or die of the virus when compared to people with a normal body mass index (BMI). Those who were morbidly obese were 30% more likely to die, and those who were only slightly obese were 10% more likely. The CDC updated its risk factors for severe COVID-19 infection, identifying obesity as presenting just as much of a risk as a suppressed immune system or kidney disease. According to their calculations, the risk starts at a BMI as low as 30.
One of the discoveries in this study was that obese men seemed to fare worse than obese women. Oddly enough, body mass index was not associated with increased odds of dying of COVID-19. Experts think that fat distribution may be the culprit here. Where women tend to carry more fat around their hips and thighs, men tend to carry far more visceral and abdominal fat. This has the potential to restrict breathing, which makes it much more difficult to deal with severe respiratory conditions.
Part of what makes COVID-19 so dangerous is its unpredictability. Anyone can get it, and otherwise-healthy people can suffer from severe complications. While the exact link between obesity and death from the SARS-CoV-2 virus hasn’t yet been established, there are multiple leads for researchers to pursue. The bottom line is, if you currently have a BMI of 30 or more, making lifestyle changes to get to a lower one can save your life.