Being obese or excessively overweight increases the risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, Public Health England (PHE) has warned.
A new study by PHE found that being severely overweight puts people at greater risk of hospitalisation, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admission and death from COVID-19, with risk growing substantially as body mass index (BMI) increases.
But the report adds that the current evidence does not suggest that having excess weight increases people’s chances of contracting COVID-19 in the first place.
It comes as the government launches its new strategy to tackle obesity.
One study found that for people with a BMI of 35 to 40, risk of death from COVID-19 increases by 40% and with a BMI over 40 by 90%, compared to those not living with obesity.
Other data found that in intensive care units, 7.9% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 had a BMI over 40 compared with 2.9% of the general population.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of adults in England are overweight or obese, with people aged 55 to 74, those living in deprived areas and certain black, Asian and minority ethnic groups more severely affected.
The report highlights that supporting people to achieve and maintain a healthy weight may reduce the severe effects of COVID-19 on the population, especially among vulnerable groups that are most affected by obesity.
‘The current evidence is clear that being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, as well as from many other life-threatening diseases,’ said PHE’s chief nutritionist, Dr Alison Tedstone.
‘It can be hard to lose weight and even harder to sustain it, which is why people cannot easily do it on their own. Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health – and may also help protect against the health risks of COVID-19. The case for action on obesity has never been stronger.’
The full report – Excess weight and COVID-19: insights from new evidence – is available to read here.
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