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Association between obesity and severe COVID-19 complications

With the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spreading, obesity-related comorbidities seem to increase the risk of critical complications. Several studies have reported that together with old age, obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for being hospitalized with coronavirus complaints1-3. The association between obesity and severe COVID-19 complications is made for several reasons.

Impaired immune response

Generally, people who suffer from obesity have a higher risk of infections. The presence of obesity is known to lead to chronic low-grade inflammation in the body. This constant state of immune activity results in impaired immune responses towards infections, increasing the risk and severity of infections.

Obesity-related respiratory complaints

Furthermore, a study among COVID-19 patients in France showed a correlation between the severity of respiratory complications and BMI2. Increased body weight puts extra pressure on the respiratory system. Since the coronavirus is mostly a respiratory disease, obesity increases the risk of respiratory complaints when infected with COVID-19.

Heart disease and diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that heart disease and diabetes increase the severity of the coronavirus as well. Since obesity causes diabetes and high blood pressure, these comorbidities tend to be an important cause for the association between obesity and severe COVID-19 complaints.

Obesity and COVID-19 complications: next steps

More research is needed to further investigate the relation between obesity and the coronavirus. The International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (IFSO) already issued a set of recommendations to keep patients and healthcare professionals safe during these times.

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