Covid-19 has changed the world. Millions have died; the economic and social impacts are massive to say the least. The question of disease-severity and co-morbidities has gained a lot of attention. We all know that it is the elderly and those with certain co-morbidities that are at most risk of poor outcomes when they get Covid-19. Most of us know that the most important co-morbidities are Diabetes, heart disease, emphysema, cancer, smoking, and weakened immunity (there are more of course). But what about weight?

Weight, overweight, and obesity are often thought of pandemics in their own right, given the dramatic increases seen in recent decades – in the developed world, the prevalence of overweight (BMI >25) is now about 60-70%, and the prevalence of obesity (BMI >30) is now about 25-35%, depending on country. That’s a lot of large people, and something like double the number seen three decades ago (even when the stats are population-size-adjusted). Good research has been published in recent months and we now know that:

  • Obese people (BMI > 30) who contract Covid-19 were and are 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to be hospitalised, 74% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, and 48% more likely to die.
  • Overweight people (BMI > 25 but <30) also appear to be at increased risk but the evidence here is weaker and still emerging (watch for more on this because it is likely that this group are indeed at increased risk).
  • High BMI is a known risk factor for disease like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke, all of which are also independent risk factors for a poor Covid-19 outcome. But being obese is an independent risk factor even without these medical conditions.
  • Obesity creates low-grade inflammation in the body, worsens metabolic profile (sugar and fat levels in the blood), impairs immunity, and can cause blood clotting problems. These are the likely mechanisms through which obesity creates Covid-risk.

So there you have it. Being too-heavy is never healthy but in these times of Covid-19, there are even more reasons to start losing some kilos and getting fitter. And even if you cannot do that (we know that weight loss is tough, not impossible but tough), at the very least please understand your risk profile and take extra care.