CDC study finds about 78% of people hospitalized for Covid were overweight or obese

An overwhelming majority of people who have been hospitalized, needed a ventilator or died from Covid-19 have been overweight or obese, the CDC said in a new study Monday.

Among 148,494 adults who received a Covid-19 diagnosis during an emergency department or inpatient visit at 238 U.S. hospitals from March to December, 71,491 were hospitalized. Of those who were admitted, 27.8% were overweight and 50.2% were obese, according to the CDC report. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index of 25 or more, while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more.

The agency found the risk for hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths was lowest among individuals with BMIs under 25. The risk of severe illness “sharply increased,” however, as BMIs rose, particularly among people 65 and older, the agency said.

Just over 42% of the U.S. population was considered obese in 2018, according to the agency’s most recent statistics.

It doesn’t take a lot of extra pounds to be considered overweight or obese. A 5-foot-10-inch man at 175 pounds and 5-foot-4-inch woman at 146 pounds would both be considered overweight with BMIs of just over 25, according to the CDC’s BMI calculator. A man and woman of the same heights would be considered obese at 210 pounds and 175 pounds, respectively. “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,” the agency wrote.

The CDC added the findings highlight the clinical and public health implications of higher BMIs, including the promotion of Covid prevention strategies such as continued vaccine prioritization, masking and policies to ensure community access to nutrition and physical activities.

Obesity is a common and costly chronic disease in the U.S. Non-Hispanic Black adults have the highest prevalence of self-reported obesity in the U.S., followed by Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic white people, according to the CDC.

The CDC has previously noted that having obesity increases the risk of severe illness, including hospitalizations. Obesity is linked to impaired immune function and decreased lung capacity that can make ventilation more difficult, the agency has said.

The study had limitations, the CDC said. Risk estimates for severe Covid-19 were measured only among adults who received care at a hospital. Therefore, these estimates might differ from the risk among all adults with Covid, the CDC said. Additionally, only patients with reported height and weight information were included in the report.

The CDC obtained data from PHD-SR, a large, hospital-based database.

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