People living with obesity have a higher risk of severe COVID-19 if they catch the disease, according to a new study, which sheds more light on which segments of the population are vulnerable.
Previously, those who are considered high risk are seniors and those who have co-morbidities like hypertension and respiratory illnesses.
According to a report published by medical journal JAMA Network Open, people with obesity who have COVID-19 are twice likely to require hospitalization and 50% more likely to die.
Individuals with obesity have impaired immune systems, seasoned obesity researcher Barry Popkin said. There's also metabolic dysfunction and easy inflamation of body fat. All three are "very much" linked to diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and kidney and liver disease which are known risks of COVID-19.
Obesity is defined as an adult having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater to or equal to 30. It is calculated by taking a person's weight in kilograms (kg) and dividing it by the person's squared height in meters.
Across the globe, the number of people living with obesity is nearing 2.5 billion. In the Philippines, three out of 10 adults are overweight and obese, according to the Philippine Association for the Study of Overweight and Obesity.
An obese person's physical features also make it difficult to do care work such as turning over and lifting a patient up.
The pandemic and resulting sedentary lifestlye could lead to higher obesity rates, he said.
If a patient is obese or overweight, caution them to be much more careful about COVID-19. Strictly follow protocols such as wearing masks and social distancing, he said.
There needs to be a more a healthier conversation surrounding diet, one that is free of shame. Physicians should talk more to their patients about cleaning up their eating habits and increasing physical activity, even with limited incomes.
"It’s all a steep slope. Once you start eating differently, it’s very difficult to change that. Encouragement to eat healthier would certainly be important because it’s going to be diet changes that really address obesity and overweight across the globe. It is not going to be getting everybody to the gym or jogging," said Popkin.