The Obesity Risk Factor for COVID-19

obesity risk factor for COVID-19 | Nava Health
Medically Reviewed
May 7, 2020

Written By: Director of Nutrition for Nava Health Laura Kelly, MA, MS, CNS, LDN

Recent research has found that 90% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 have one or more underlying health conditions. These health conditions include hypertension, chronic lung disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  However in recent weeks, obesity has emerged as the single biggest risk factor after age.

In a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC looked at data from 1,482 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and found that 49.7% had hypertension, 48.3% were obese, 35% had chronic lung conditions such as asthma, 28% had diabetes, and 28% had cardiovascular disease. However when they looked at patients aged 18-49 and 50-64, obesity jumped ahead of hypertension as the main underlying condition.

This finding was supported by another study that reviewed data from 4,103 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York. This study also found that obesity was more closely associated with critical illness than cardiovascular or pulmonary disease. While this data is preliminary, as is all data on the Sars-CoV-2 virus, what is important here is that hospitals are reporting that obese patients are at a much greater risk for hospitalization and complications from COVID-19.

This is significant because approximately 42% of adults are considered obese in the United States. Obesity has also been found to increase the risk of comorbid conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease. To put it simply, almost half of Americans are starting their fight against COVID-19 at a huge disadvantage. So, let’s talk about the obesity risk factor for covid-19.

Obesity Risk Factor for Covid-19: Why?

So why is obesity such a significant risk factor? Likely this is due to the role of inflammation in COVID-19 disease progression. Obesity is known to be a pro-inflammatory condition. This is because excess adipose tissue (fat) stimulates the release of pro-inflammatory mediators such as tumor necrosis factor α and interleukin 6, resulting in excess inflammation and oxidative stress. Higher levels of circulating interleukin 6 also stimulate the liver to synthesize and secrete C-reactive protein. All of these pro-inflammatory markers have been seen in advanced cases of COVID-19 and are being used as clues to help doctors know which patients are at a higher risk of advanced disease. Thus, obese patients are coming into hospitals primed for the deadly inflammatory storm. This has the potential to accelerate disease progression in these patients, leading to worse outcomes and higher mortality rates than their thinner counterparts.

Lose Weight During Quarantine

The silver lining here is that obesity, unlike age, is mostly under our control. If you have been putting off losing weight, there is no time like now to start putting your health first. Most of us are at home right now and have more time to exercise and cook healthy meals. Start by making a commitment to walking daily, cutting out packaged snacks, drinking at least 64 ounces of water and eating 2-3 cups of vegetables and 2-3 pieces of fruit every day. It can also help to find a friend or family member who you can call daily to help keep you on track and motivated!

Now you can get the expertise of Nava’s integrative medical specialists from anywhere in the USA through NavaLive! NavaLive is a cutting-edge telemedicine service that offers patients 2-way video conferences with Nava’s expert staff. Contact us today.