Obesity is linked with higher odds of having severe Covid-19 symptoms that require hospitalization –– and the higher the body mass index, the higher that risk of hospitalization, according to a new study out of the United Kingdom.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, found "an upward linear trend in the likelihood of COVID-19 hospitalization with increasing BMI" even with modest weight gain. Body mass index or BMI is a common measurement based on a person's height and weight to determine whether they are underweight, overweight or obese.
The researchers, who are from various universities in the UK, examined data on at least 334,329 UK adults ages 40 to 69, taking a close look at their BMI and weight and then whether they went on to be hospitalized with Covid-19.
Among those adults, 640 or 0.2% were hospitalized with Covid-19.
The researchers found that the crude incidence of Covid-19 hospitalization was 19.1 per 10,000 people among those who were overweight. According to the study, that rose to 23.3 per 10,000 among those with obesity stage I and to 42.7 per 10,000 among those with obesity stage II, as compared to people at normal weight, which had a crude incidence of 12.5 per 10,000.
The study had some limitations, including that the data captured Covid-19 cases that warranted in-patient care, therefore the true prevalence of the disease in the data remains unknown.
Overall "we observed a higher likelihood of COVID-19 hospitalization with increasing overall and central adiposity, even in participants with modest weight gain," the researchers wrote, referring to being significantly overweight or obese as adiposity.
"Since over two-thirds of Westernized society are overweight or obese, this potentially presents a major risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection and may have implications for policy," they added.