Certain evidences suggest that obesity is associated with a higher risk of developing severe symptoms and complications of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). An increasing number of reports have linked obesity to coronavirus mortality, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA now list severe obesity as a risk factor for severe COVID-19. The CDC defines severe obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above.
In Britain, nearly one-third of the population is obese. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who himself is obese said his obesity contributed to his COVID-19 complications in April when he was diagnosed with coronavirus infection. Hence, he wants Britons to lose weight and has started the COVID and Anti-Obesity campaign.
A study conducted in France also found obese patients with COVID-19 were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation due to severe complications and possible risk of death.
A larger study of over 4,000 patients with COVID-19 in New York City found that severe obesity was a major risk factor for hospitalization, second only to age.
In Seattle, a study of critically ill COVID-19 patients made similar findings. This analysis found that 85% of patients with obesity required mechanical ventilation, compared to 64% of patients without the condition. Moreover, 62% of the patients with obesity died of COVID-19, compared with 36% of those without obesity.
People with obesity are more likely to have lower lung volumes and weaker respiratory muscles, which are critical in the defense against COVID-19. These factors make an individual more likely to develop pneumonia, and they place additional stress on the heart.
Obesity is also associated with diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease, all of which likewise increase the risk of developing pneumonia. These comorbid medical conditions increase the chances of fatalities due to coronavirus infection.
Prime Minister Johnson’s new strategy to make Britain leaner has upset those struggling with eating disorders. According to Beat- the UK’s eating disorder charity, an estimated 1.25 million people in the U.K. have an eating disorder. The concern is that putting calorie counts on restaurant menu items, one of Johnson’s proposals will trigger anxiety in sufferers.
PM Johnson has urged to curb promotion of unhealthy food to young people as part of his ‘war on obesity’. Many celebrities join call for UK ban on junk food ads on TV before 9 pm.
This campaign is important in the long run as Britain has the highest rates of obesity (8.1%) for 15- to 19-year-olds among 14 European comparator countries.
Britain also has the highest death rate from coronavirus in Europe, with one potential factor – high rates of obesity and associated lifestyle-linked conditions such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure – linked to worse Covid-19 outcomes.