Obesity Linked to Severe Coronavirus Disease, Especially for Younger Patients

Another NYU Langone study, which focused on patients under the age of 60, found that those with obesity were twice as likely to be hospitalized and were at even higher risk of requiring critical care. The association between obesity and more severe disease was not seen in patients over the age of 60.

The severity of the illness often comes as a surprise to younger adults, and “provides another layer of shock to this disease,” the paper’s author, Dr. Jennifer Lighter, said.

Studies highlighting the risks of obesity have been conducted in other countries as well.

Though most of the early reports from China pointed to risk factors like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which are common in people with obesity, scientists in Shenzhen, China, reported in The Lancet this month that Covid-19 patients with a high body mass index were at more than double the risk of severe pneumonia than those with a lower B.M.I.

Another study from China, which looked at outcomes among a group of 112 Covid-19 patients, reported that of the 17 patients who died, 15 were either overweight or obese.

More recently, a French study reported that nearly half of 124 Covid-19 patients in Lille, France, had obesity, twice the rate of a comparison group of intensive care patients hospitalized for other reasons last year. The study also reported that the need for mechanical ventilation increased with higher body weight.

At Ochsner Health, a system with 41 hospitals in Louisiana and southern Mississippi, Dr. Leo Seoane, the company’s senior vice president, said that 60 percent of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 had obesity and that obesity appeared to nearly double their risk of requiring a ventilator.

“We in the U.S. have not always identified obesity as a disease, and some people think it’s a lifestyle choice. But it’s not,” said Dr. Matthew Hutter, director of the Weight Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. “It makes people sick, and we’re realizing that now.”

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