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expert reaction to study looking at sex-specific impact of obesity on outcomes for hospitalised COVID-19 patients

A study published in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases looks at sex-specific impact of severe obesity on the outcomes of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in New York.


Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Senior Research Fellow in Health Behaviours, University of Oxford, said:

“This study, based on electronic health records from over 3,500 people hospitalised with COVID-19, adds to a growing body of evidence establishing obesity as an independent risk factor for worse outcomes from COVID-19. The researchers found that in men, ‘obesity class II’ (BMI ranging from 35-39.9) and ‘obesity class III’ (BMI 45 or greater) were associated with greater risks. In women, obesity class III was also associated with greater risk, but the relationship was less pronounced for obesity class II. Caution should be taken when interpreting this finding. There are more men than women in the study (reflecting the fact that men are more likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19 than women), and the estimates given for women with class II obesity incorporate a substantially increased risk, including one of similar magnitude to that observed in men (statistically speaking, the confidence intervals overlap). Therefore, it could be that obesity class II is genuinely less of a risk factor in women, but could also be just that the results in women were more imprecise, due to the relatively smaller number of women in the study and to the fact that once hospitalised with COVID-19, women overall were less likely to die than men. Larger studies are needed before we can say with any certainty that class II obesity is less of a risk factor in women than in men. What we can say for certain now is that obesity is associated with an increased risk of worse COVID-19 outcomes in and of itself, and is a risk factor for conditions such as type 2 diabetes which also predispose to worse outcomes. Obesity is a complex, chronic, and relapsing condition and a major contributor to health inequalities. Structural drivers of obesity urgently need to be tackled.”



‘Sex-specific impact of severe obesity in the outcomes of hospitalized patients with COVID-19: a large retrospective study from the Bronx, New York’ by Arcelia Guerson-Gil was published in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases at 16:00 UK time on Thursday 6 May.




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