An increasing number of reports link obesity to coronavirus mortality, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now list severe obesity as a risk factor for severe COVID-19.
The definition of dangerous obesity, according to the CDC, is having a body mass index of 40 or over. Statistics show that 42 percent of American adults — nearly 80 million people — live with obesity, a prevalence rate that far exceeds those of other countries hit hard by the coronavirus, like China and Italy.
There are ongoing studies trying to determine why obesity increases the risk of severity and mortality from COVID-19. British researchers speculate that since the virus likes to latch on to ACE2 inhibitors, people who are obese have an abundance of fat cells that contain these enzymes. ACE2 inhibitors may act as a “gateway” for the virus to enter, according to the Daily Mail.
Scientists determined that those suffering from diabetes who have more ACE2 inhibitors in their fat cells also puts them in a high-risk group for severe illness from the coronavirus. Some researchers in Germany and the U.S. believe that diabetes drugs may help fight the infection and suggest that losing weight will also help.
According to Medical News Today, a definitive study conducted in France, found that obese patients with COVID-19 were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation. The lead author, Dr. Norbert Stefan, told Medical News Today:
“We concluded that obesity may put people infected with the novel coronavirus at a very high risk for a more severe COVID-19 illness and possibly risk of death.”
In the study, the researchers suggested that obesity causes respiratory dysfunction, which makes these individuals more likely to develop pneumonia, which in turn, places stress on the heart. And they also noticed a connection between obesity and diabetes, speculating that high glucose levels in the blood may predict a more severe case of COVID-19.
“There is data emerging showing the hyperglycemia — high levels of glucose in the blood — even in the range where diabetes cannot be diagnosed, is a strong and independent predictor of a severe course of COVID-19,” said Dr. Stefan.
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