The Malta Independent 23 May 2024, Thursday
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Obesity increases risk of Covid-19 death by 48%, new study finds

Wednesday, 26 August 2020, 18:06 Last update: about 5 years ago

Obesity increases the risk of death from Covid-19 by nearly 50% and may make vaccines against the disease less effective, a comprehensive study using global data has found.

The study, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, is a meta-analysis, bringing together data from many studies carried out around the world, including Italy, France, the UK, the US and China.

The research is led by Professor Barry Popkin, a nutrition and obesity researcher from the department of nutrition at the UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health, and was conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


The study found that anyone with a BMI over 30, are at greater risk from the coronavirus in every way. Their risk of ending up in hospital with Covid-19 is increased by 113%, they are more likely to be admitted to intensive care (74%) and have a higher risk of death (48%) from the virus.

The study is worrying especially when considering how Malta consistently tops the obesity charts across Europe.

A recent WHO study into children and adolescents in fact found that Maltese children top the charts for 11, 13 and 15-year olds, with the numbers not only remaining high, but having increased between 2014 and 2017.

Popkin told The Guardian that he was shocked by the findings, noting that the risk of dying from Covid-19 for people with obesity was significantly higher than anyone had thought.

“That’s a pretty big effect, for me,” said Popkin. “It is a 50% increase essentially. That’s a pretty high scary number. All of it is actually – much higher than I ever expected.”

The risk of being admitted to hospital for people with obesity was doubled, he said, at 113%. “That, ICU admission and mortality are really high,” he said. “They all shocked me, to be honest.”

Obesity is a global problem that no country has yet successfully tackled.

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