Obesity Increases Risk Of Death Due To COVID: Study

South Asians, who are obese, are at a greater risk of dying from COVID as compared to other ethnicities, as per the study

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahUpdated at: Feb 03, 2022 13:26 IST
Obesity Increases Risk Of Death Due To COVID: Study

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COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has claimed over 5.7 million lives worldwide. Although anyone can get severely sick from COVID, there are risk factors that increase your chances, including age and co-morbidities. Although the deadly virus has claimed lives across age groups, are there any risk factors involved? Are there some people who are more likely to die of COVID than the rest? A study involving 12.6 million participants in the United Kingdom has tried answering that. As per findings, obese individuals across ethnicities are at a greater risk of dying of COVID than the rest. Not just that, the risk of South Asians dying of obesity is higher as compared to other ethnicities.

About The Study

The study was undertaken by researchers at the UK’s University of Leicester.

  • It involved as many as 12.6 million participants.
  • The study was undertaken before the COVID vaccine rollout in the country in December 2020. Hence, it spanned from the start of the pandemic, which is January 2020, till vaccination began.
  • The researchers analysed data from the national census, mortality data for adults in England, and electronic health records.
  • They analysed deaths among whites (30,067), blacks (1,208), South Asians (1,831), and other ethnicities (845).
  • It is termed the largest study on the link between obesity and COVID-induced deaths.

It was published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

Also read: Who Are Likely To Suffer From Long COVID? Scientists Unravel 4 Risk Factors

Study Findings

Obesity can lead to COVID death

Here is what the researchers found out:

  • Obesity increases the risk of COVID deaths.
  • Although it is the case across ethnicities, obese South Asians are at a greater risk of dying of COVID than obese people of other ethnicities, the researchers found out.
  • It can be inferred from the fact that South Asians with a body mass index (BMI) of 27 kg per metre square were at the same chance of dying of COVID as a white person with a BMI of 40 kg per metre square. BMI is a metric used to measure if a person is overweight, obese, underweight, or weighs normal. Those whose BMI is 25 and above are termed as overweight and above 30 are termed as obese. It’s calculated in terms of weight (in kilogramme) and square of height (in metre square).
  • Similarly, blacks with a BMI of 30.1 kg per metre square were at the same chance of dying as whites with a BMI of 40. The same for people of other ethnicities stood at 32.2 kg/m2.
  • Also, the link between COVID death and high BMI was found to be stronger among young people.
  • Not just high BMI, being underweight can also increase a person’s risk for dying of COVID, the researchers found out. Whites, blacks, and those from other ethnicities (other than South Asians) had a similar risk of dying of COVID when they had a BMI of 20 kg/m2. The risk, however, was slightly elevated from South Asians. It is because low BMI is associated with poor nutrition and higher levels of sarcopenia and frailty. These are themselves linked to a higher risk of COVID-induced death.

A thing that must be noted here is that the study was undertaken before vaccination began. Hence, more research is needed into the COVID death risk factors in the post-vaccination world.

How To Reduce Obesity

As you saw, being obese increases your risk of dying from COVID. Not just that, obesity also increases your risk of myriad health problems, from heart health issues and hypertension to diabetes. Hence, you must take steps to lose weight and get fit. Here are some ways you can do it as suggested by the Harvard TH Chan School Of Public Health:

  • Eat healthily: Eat foods that aren’t just nutritious but also keep your calorie intake in check. Hence, include whole grains, nuts, plant oils, and lots of fruits and vegetables in your diet. Also, steer clear of highly processed foods and beverages.
  • Physical activity: Exercising not just helps you lose weight but manage it as well. Also, it helps you to develop a good lifestyle. Hence, get some minutes of exercise each day. It can be anything, from a brisk walk to a HIIT workout, anything you like.
  • Limit Screen Time: Not only is it a sedentary activity, but it also promotes unhealthy eating habits through ads, pictures of foods, etc. Hence, limit your screen time, and use that time to indulge in some recreation activities, instead.
  • Sleep Well: Although often ignored, sleeping well is crucial not just for keeping your weight in check but for health overall.
  • Relax: Stress, which has become a part and parcel of our modern lifestyle, is one of the contributors to weight gain. Hence, developing mechanisms for stress management is what you should focus on. Also, indulge in activities, such as meditation, yoga, etc, which help you destress.

Although obesity increases your risk of dying from COVID. However, by making changes to your lifestyle, you can reduce weight. It will not only decrease your risk of dying from COVID but other serious health issues too. So, eat well, exercise enough, and sleep enough. Also, wear a mask, practice social distancing, take good care of hand hygiene, and get vaccinated, to ward off COVID in the first place. 

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