Nearly three in four of the half a million Americans who have died from COVID-19 were obese or overweight, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The data of one study group found 46% of those who have died from the virus were obese and 27.3% were overweight. A body mass index (BMI) above 30 is considered obese, while overweight people have a BMI of 25 to 29.9. In the U.S., about 70% of Americans are considered overweight, with 42.4% classified as obese.
In addition, the CDC found that nearly eight in 10 people hospitalized for the virus were either obese or overweight.
The new CDC data follows a report from the World Obesity Federation (WOF) that said 90% of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide have occurred in countries where half the population is considered obese or overweight.
More than 525,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, which is nearly double of the death toll in Brazil, where some 266,000 have died from the virus, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. The WOF said 2.2 million of the world’s 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths so far have occurred in countries where 50% or more of the population is obese or overweight.
“Increased body weight is the second greatest predictor of hospitalization and a high risk of death for people suffering from Covid-19,” the federation report said.
“Only old age rates as a higher risk factor. The unprecedented economic costs of Covid-19 are largely due to the measures taken to avoid the excess hospitalization and need for treatment of the disease,” the report said. “Reducing one major risk factor, overweight, would have resulted in far less stress on health services and reduced the need to protect those services from being overwhelmed.”
The WOF report also said nearly half of those who died of COVID-19 after being hospitalized for the virus — 49% — were 75 years old or older. While the U.S. has the most fatalities from the virus, the country ranks as the eighth-worst COVID-19 death rate per capita, with 152.5 victims per 100,000 people.
“People with obesity more than twice as likely to need hospitalization and more than six times as likely to need mechanically assisted breathing and more than six times as likely to die following development of COVID-19,” the WOF report said.
The CDC report also said that people who were morbidly obese, with a BMI of 45 or higher, were about 1.5 times more likely to die of the virus than an average person. The WOF report said more than two-thirds (67.9%) of adults have a BMI above 25, while a range between 18 and 24 is considered healthy.
“These results highlight the need to promote and support a healthy BMI, which might be especially important for populations disproportionately affected by obesity, particularly Hispanic or Latino and non-Hispanic black adults and persons from low-income households, which are populations who have a higher prevalence of obesity and are more likely to have worse outcomes from COVID-19 compared with other populations,” the CDC authors wrote.
“As clinicians develop care plans for COVID-19 patients, they should consider the risk for severe outcomes in patients with higher BMIs, especially for those with severe obesity,” the agency wrote.
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