By Lauren Mascarenhas
The risk of death from Covid-19 is an astonishing 10 times higher in countries where most of the population is overweight, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Obesity Forum.
The new findings may explain why there are so many more Covid deaths per capita in wealthy countries such as the U.S. than in poorer countries in Asia and Africa, a fact that has puzzled experts since the early days of the pandemic. The findings also call into question the effectiveness of many restrictions placed on citizens by governments.
Researchers found that by the end of 2020, global Covid-19 mortality was more than 10 times higher in countries where more than half the adults are overweight, compared to countries where fewer than half are overweight.
The team examined mortality data from Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and found that of 2.5 million Covid-19 deaths reported by the end of February, 2.2 million were in countries where more than half the population is overweight.
In an analysis of data and studies from more than 160 countries, the researchers found that Covid-19 mortality rates increased along with countries’ prevalence of obesity. They note that the link persisted even after adjusting for age and national wealth.
The report found that every country where less than 40% of the population was overweight had a low Covid-19 death rate of no more than 10 people per 100,000. But in countries where more than 50% of the population was overweight, the Covid-19 death rate was much higher — more than 100 per 100,000.
The researchers, who said they were stunned by the discrepancy, say that being overweight can also worsen other health issues and viral infections, like H1N1, flu and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.
The World Obesity Forum suggests prioritizing those living with obesity for Covid-19 testing and vaccination. “An overweight population is an unhealthy population, and a pandemic waiting to happen,” the group writes.
In the U.S., close to three-quarters of the population is either overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Credit: CTV News