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Risk for Severe Outcomes in COVID-19 Increases With Increasing BMI

WEDNESDAY, March 10, 2021 -- Adults with higher body mass index (BMI), especially those with obesity, have an increased risk for severe outcomes in COVID-19, according to research published in the March 8 early-release issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Lyudmyla Kompaniyets, Ph.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues assessed the correlation between BMI and the risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes using data from the Premier Healthcare Database Special COVID-19 Release. Data were included for 148,494 adults who received a COVID-19 diagnosis during an emergency department or inpatient visit at 238 U.S. hospitals during March to December 2020.

The researchers found that 28.3 and 50.8 percent of participants had overweight and obesity, respectively. Overweight and obesity were identified as risk factors for invasive mechanical ventilation, while obesity was also a risk factor for hospitalization and death, especially among those aged younger than 65 years. Patients with BMIs of 24.2, 25.9, and 23.7 kg/m2 had the lowest risks for hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and death, respectively; the risks increased sharply with higher BMIs. Over the full range of BMIs, from 15 to 60 kg/m2, there was an increase in risk for invasive mechanical ventilation.

"The findings in this report highlight a dose-response relationship between higher BMI and severe COVID-19-associated illness and underscore the need for progressively intensive illness management as obesity severity increases," the authors write. "Preventing COVID-19 in adults with higher BMIs and their close contacts remains important and includes multifaceted protection measures."

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