The overwhelming majority of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 have been overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded in a study Monday.
Researchers found that 27.8% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were overweight while 50.2% of patients were obese. The CDC study was conducted from a sample of 71,491 adults who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and admitted to 238 hospitals nationwide between March and December 2020.
New: The risk of severe #COVID19 illness rises sharply with elevated body mass index, especially for people younger than 65, a new @CDCMMWR finds. Learn more: https://t.co/4Tem67E5Z3. pic.twitter.com/gY8KPqZFY1
— CDC (@CDCgov) March 8, 2021
The study determined admitted patients’ weight categories using the Body Mass Index (BMI). According to the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25 and 30, while obesity is defined as having a BMI greater than 30.
Researchers concluded that the risk of hospitalization, intensive care treatment and even death “increased sharply” if a patient’s BMI categorized them as overweight or obese, particularly among adults over 65 years. Patients with lower BMIs conversely had lower risks of hospitalization, intensive care treatment and death.
The CDC said its findings highlight the clinical and public health impact of obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recommended “community access to nutrition and physical activities” for overweight or obese people alongside traditional prevention efforts like face masks and social distancing. (RELATED: Put The Burger Down America, The Secret To Our Covid-19 Crisis Is That You’re Too Fat)
“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,” researchers wrote.
The agency also noted higher obesity rates are more prevalent among racial minorities — specifically Hispanics and blacks — along with people from low-income households. Prior research indicates these groups experience higher rates of COVID-19 infections.
Around 42% of the U.S. population was considered obese in 2018 according to the CDC’s most recent data. The percentage of obese U.S. adults has grown considerably over the past two decades, up from 30.5% reported by the agency in 1999.