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Older age greatly increases a person’s risk of becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19. However, being overweight is almost as dangerous.

Money Talk News’ recent article entitled “Far More COVID-19 Deaths Occur in Places With This Trait” says that of the 2.5 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of the end of February, 2.2 million occurred in countries where at least 50% of the population is medically classified as overweight, according to a report from the London-based World Obesity Federation.

In healthier countries — where less than 50% of adults are overweight — the odds of dying from COVID-19 are typically just one-tenth the level seen in countries where more than half the population is overweight.

The report authors defined “overweight” adults as those with a body mass index (BMI) above 25 kg/m2, a standard used by organizations such as the American Heart Association.

They defined “obese” as a BMI above 30 kg/m2. BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, measured in kilograms per square meter.

While acknowledging that the report findings are not complete and may change as the pandemic develops, the federation says the initial data has “serious public health implications” in a world where obesity has been a growing problem for many years.

As the World Obesity Federation report authors note, COVID-19 is not the first viral respiratory infection where obesity has been implicated as a factor that makes illness worse:

“Data from the last two decades on the impact of MERS, H1N1 influenza and other influenza-related infections show worse outcomes linked to excess bodyweight. An overweight population is an unhealthy population, and a pandemic waiting to happen.”

Moreover, a separate large analysis by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was released in early March found that a higher BMI is associated with an increased risk for a severe case of COVID-19.

The CDC researchers also found that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for needing a ventilator and that obesity is a risk factor for hospitalization and death—especially for those over 65.

Another different study also showed that being overweight or obese may hamper the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 that is now being given to millions of patients.

Reference: Money Talk News (March 10, 2021) “Far More COVID-19 Deaths Occur in Places With This Trait”

Suggested Key Terms: COVID-19 (coronavirus)