A Kaiser Permanente study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on August 12, found that extreme obesity raises the risk of dying in men with COVID-19 aged 60 and younger.
Researchers analyzed thousands of patients, who contracted the virus between February 13, 2020 and May 2, 2020, that were treated at a Southern California health system, Kaiser Permanente press release indicated.
“Although this study examines a variety of factors that may be associated with risk of death from COVID-19, our main objective in this paper was to understand risk related to obesity, and obesity-associated chronic conditions in our health care system,” said lead researcher Sara Tart of Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in the release.
The study noted that race alone is not considered an “independent” risk factor of death in coronavirus patients.
“Our findings suggest that it is not race or ethnicity alone that increases risk of death, but rather other correlated factors, including access to health care, comorbidities, and obesity, that also play an important role,” Tart continued in the release.
Here’s what you need to know about the study:
‘Severely Obese’ Patients Face More than 4 Times the Risk of Death
Researchers analyzed the electronic health records of roughly 7,000 Kaiser Permanente Southern California members, according to the study.
The study reported that the patients’ mean age was 49, while the mean body mass index, a measure of body fat based on height and weight, was 30.5.
“A BMI of 30 to 39 is considered obese, 40 to 44 is severely obese, and 45 or higher is extremely obese,” the press release indicated.
Researchers found that body mass index is not “independently associated” with a greater chance of dying in women infected with the coronavirus, according to the release. Severely and extremely obese men, on the other hand, faced a “very high” risk of death.
“Extremely obese” individuals with COVID-19 had the highest risk of death, with more than 4 times the chance of dying, compared to those at a “normal weight, the study found. Severely obese patients had nearly triple the risk.
Men in either category of obesity aged 60 or younger are also more likely to die from the coronavirus than those considered “severely obese” above that age, the press release claimed.
Women Carry Weight Differently Than Men, Researchers Say
The study found that women with COVID-19, at any age, are not affected by obesity in the same way that men are. This could possibly be attributed to the fact that women carry weight differently than their male counterparts, researchers indicated.
They highlighted in the study that men have more “visceral” and abdominal fat, writing:
Obesity . . . is also associated with increased ectopic fat, including visceral, perivascular, and epicardial adipose tissue. Several studies have shown that this fat distribution promotes chronic proinflammatory, prothrombotic, and vasoconstrictive states, which can manifest as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, and immunocompromised state.
Because obesity restricts a person’s ability to breathe, it is more difficult for those with COVID-19 to recover from pneumonia and other respiratory infections associated with the virus, the study indicates.
“Ectopic fat and COVID-19 share a common link in the upregulation of proinflammatory, prothrombotic, and vasoconstrictive peptide hormone, ATII,” researchers wrote in the study.
“Reduced levels of anti-inflammatory adipokines, such as adiponectin, in obesity are associated with increased ATII.”