Higher body weight linked with severe COVID risk: Study

New Delhi: Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19, including higher ICU admissions, according to a study published on Thursday in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.

The researchers from the University of Oxford in the UK noted that this is the first large study to report the effect of bodyweight on risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19 across the full range of body-mass index (BMI).

BMI is a measure of body fat calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilogrammes by the square of height in metres.

The study is based on more than 6.9 million people living in England and included data from over 20,000 COVID-19 patients who were hospitalised or died during the first wave of the pandemic in the country.

The researchers found that the risk of worse outcomes from COVID-19 start rising in people with a BMI above 23 kilogrammes per square metre (kg/m2), which is considered to be in the healthy range.

The risks of hospitalisation were 5 per cent higher for each one unit increase in BMI and the risk of ICU admission was 10 per cent higher for each unit increase, they said. People who were underweight (BMI less than 18.5) also experienced worse outcomes from COVID-19, they said. The effect of excess weight on the risk of severe COVID-19 was greatest in young people aged 20 to 39 years of age and decreased after age 60, according to the study.

Increasing BMI had very little impact on the risk of severe COVID-19 in people aged over 80 years, the researchers said.

However, the overall incidence of severe COVID-19 among people aged 20 to 39 years of age was lower than all other age groups, they said.

"Our study shows that even very modest excess weight is associated with greater risks of severe COVID complications and the risks rise sharply as BMI increases," said Carmen Piernas, lead author of study, from the University of Oxford.

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