There is a correlation between obesity and the severity of COVID-19, says Chief Medical Officer


Latest information coming out of China and North America has revealed that there is some correlation between obesity and a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) and the severity of COVID-19, says Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws at the June 01 NEOC COVID-19 Daily Briefing.

“This information is important because as you are aware we would have contained the first wave of COVID-19 infections and we are told that there will be a second wave,” she said, noting that it is important for persons to be able to identify those individuals who would be at an increased risk of hospitalization and ICU admission when they are impacted by COVID-19.

Dr. Laws said that the scientific data shows that there is a high prevalence of obesity amongst patients with severe COVID-19.

“They looked at a number of patients in China and they found that the patients with severe COVID-19 and those who would have died from COVID-19, they had a high BMI. BMI is your weight based on your height. You can calculate your BMI by weighing or noting our weight in kilograms and dividing it by our height in meters squared. So what they found is that individuals whose BMI was higher than 25, they didn’t do very well with COVID-19,” she informed.

In terms of New York City, Dr. Laws stated that the data show that obesity, meaning persons who have a BMI over 30, it might be a risk factor for ICU admission, particularly in persons who are even younger than 60 years old.

Dr. Laws said that persons whose BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, they are at a normal weight for their height. If their BMI is between 25 and 29.9, they are deemed overweight. If a person’s BMI is 30 or over they are considered obese.

“We want to recommend that you take all the necessary actions to control your weight and to reduce your weight if your BMI is over 25,” she said.

Apart from a person’s weight and the association between obesity and the severe effects of COVID-19, the response measures can make the situation worse, said Dr. Laws.

“Some of the COVID-19 response measures included isolation, if you were diagnosed with it. If you were a contact, you would have been asked to go into quarantine and for 14 days. So, your movement would have been restricted. If you are overweight or obese this would make it worse,” she said.

“The severe restrictions that we employed to facilitate physical and social distancing also would make obesity worse because when we went through the long period of lockdown, we all found it a bit difficult or challenging in terms of accessing the fruits and the vegetables and the plant based foods that are required to eat healthily. Physical inactivity was an issue,” stated Dr. Laws.

Dr. Laws added that these factors only make obesity worse. She noted that as the restrictions are relaxed, persons can move around between 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

“We want to recommend that you choose healthy food options. Make sure you get your three to five servings of fruits and vegetables and most importantly we want you to exercise, exercise, exercise in order to reduce your risk of COVID-19 and its complications,” she said.


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