KUALA LUMPUR, 7 April – A preprint of a preliminary study recently available in medical journal The Lancet has found that patients with obesity are at increased risk of developing complications due to Covid-19 infection.
The study involved 383 Covid-19 patients in Shenzhen, China and found that compared to individuals with normal weight, obese persons were more likely to progress to severe pneumonia due to the coronavirus infection.
Normal weight based on body mass index (BMI) is defined as 18·5 – 23·9 kg/m2, while obesity is ≥28 kg/m2.
Men, in particular, with a BMI ≥28 had 5.7 times higher chance of their disease progressing towards severity. Almost half of the obese male Covid-19 patients developed severe pneumonia.
Women, however, did not show any similar indications.
Previous studies have suggested that obesity is associated with decreased immune responses and poorer health outcomes in patients with respiratory disease.
They have shown that excessive weight gain might increase the risk of developing community-acquired pneumonia.
Patients with obesity allocate a disproportionately high percentage of oxygen consumption to respiratory activity. This often results in reduction of lung function.
They become ill and require intensive care tended to encounter challenges in treatment. These include difficulty to intubate.
Compared with patients with normal weight, patients who are obese are more likely to need an intensive care unit for acute lung injury and might have a longer dependence on ventilator support and require prolonged hospital stay.
Neither being overweight nor obesity has previously been identified as increasing the severity of COVID-19 infection.
This study is believed to be the first to show that obesity, especially in men, is an important risk factor towards severe disease progression in COVID-19 patients.