Obesity: Several factors related to obesity make the probability of having severe complications from COVID-19 infection higher. These factors include associated diseases, such as diabetes or hypertension, as well as obesity-specific factors.
COVID-19 is a new disease, so there is still no absolute certainty about it, and the information is changing as further studies are carried out. However, the latest data suggests that being obese could be a risk factor for COVID-19.
“The evidence we have, with the data that has been published, points to the fact that obesity has a higher risk of complicating the disease due to COVID-19 because the percentage of subjects who have the infection and who need mechanical ventilation or who need to be hospitalized is higher in subjects with obesity.”
“This is not surprising because it was already known with other viruses that affect the respiratory system such as the flu,” says the doctor. In the common flu, the doctor explains that obese patients have a higher risk of complications, needing mechanical ventilation, and mortality. And it seems that this would also be the case in COVID-19.
1. Why is Obesity a Risk Factor?
Several factors make people with obesity have a higher risk of complications, some related to obesity itself and others to their associated diseases.
a. Factors Related to Associated Diseases
People with obesity are highly likely to have associated chronic diseases that have also been linked to a growing risk of complications from COVID-19. An obese person probably suffers from diabetes or hypertension.
“Many obese patients have diabetes. And diabetes, especially if it is poorly controlled, is also a risk of complications in a COVID-19 infection,” says the doctor. The pressure has also been described as one of the significant risk factors for complications from COVID-19, “Hypertension frequently appears in obese subjects.”
b. Factors Related to Obesity
Less ventilation capacity
“Obese people, especially those who are mainly abdominal obesity, have the less ventilatory capacity, “This could worsen your prognosis in case of lung involvement.
Another factor that, although data are not yet available, is thought to influence the complication of the disease are thrombi: “Many of the patients in whom COVID-19 is complicated is by thrombotic mechanisms because thrombi are produced,” explains Doctor, and people with obesity also have a higher risk of thrombi.
c. Chronic Inflammation
The possibility is also being studied that chronic inflammation in obese patients affects their body’s response to COVID-19 infection. In cases of Covid-19, there is an exaggerated inflammatory response.
“It is quite certain that the coronavirus infection when it becomes complicated is because there is an inflammatory hyper-response to the infection,” says the doctor. In people with obesity, this exaggeration in the inflammatory response could be more significant.
d. Ace Receptors in Adipose Tissue
Another possibility that is being considered is that the fatty tissue of people with obesity acts as a “virus reservoir” and delays their recovery. The SARS-Cov-2 virus is known to enter cells through a receptor called ACE. “Adipose tissue expresses this receptor to a much greater extent than the respiratory system.”
“This could, hypothetically, make the duration of the virus’s permanence in the body of an obese person longer,” says the doctor. If this were the case, they would increase the chances that the person would be contagious for a longer time.
“This has already been seen, for example, in influenza A. In influenza A, the duration in obese people has been long and is also attributed to the reservoir that can be adipose tissue for viruses,” says the doctor. However, there are still no studies to confirm this point.
Obesity is determined from the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is obtained by dividing weight by height. If this index is greater than 30, the person is obese. From here, there are different degrees of obesity: between 30 and 35, it is a grade I; between 35 and 40, grade II; and above 40, grade II, morbid or extreme obesity.
“As the degree of obesity expands, the risk of complications in the event of having COVID-19 increases.” The United States health system, for example, already considers that being morbidly obese is a risk factor comparable to being of advanced age (over 65 years) in terms of the risk of complications from COVID-19.
2. Risk Prevention
“People who suffer from obesity, especially morbid obesity, are recommended to take extreme security measures to avoid contamination by the virus.” This implies that they take more excellent care with hand hygiene, use protective measures such as masks, and respect 2 meters between people.
Losing weight is undoubtedly one of the most important measures to reduce the risk of complications in people with obesity. From the SEO, they recommend losing weight for future outbreaks:
“if there is a new regrowth in November or December as expected and you have five or six kilos less, you will have more guarantees that if you get infected the process will not be so serious.”