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Obesity impacts on Covid-19 recovery prospects

Large-scale study finds obesity is linked to increased risk of immune over-reaction.

Being obese reduces the chance of survival in severe cases of Covid-19, a study has found.

Reduced lung function and inflamed tissue under the skin and around internal organs could be linked to the increased risk, according to the study led by a researcher at the Roslin Institute.

Both factors can trigger a life-threatening over-reaction of the body’s immune response that causes harm to patients, the study suggests.

Researchers also found that being male was linked with more serious Covid-19 hospital admissions.

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Obesity was linked to reduced chances of survival in serious cases.

Patient data

The findings – by the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool, and Imperial College London – are based on an analysis of data obtained from some 17,000 Covid-19 patients in the UK, equivalent to one in three hospital admissions linked to the disease.

Hard data cannot convey the human story of individuals and their loved ones who have suffered, changed or sadly passed due to Covid-19. Yet with every contribution to this important study, patients and their carers, with the assistance of dedicated researchers, have struck a blow in the fight to curb this pandemic.

Dr Annemarie DochertyUniversity of Edinburgh

Researchers reached their conclusion having made adjustments for conditions such as lung, heart and kidney disease – which are already known to cause poor outcomes in patients.

Analysis is based on information obtained by 2,500 research nurses and medical students in 166 hospitals and is the largest study of its kind outside of China, where coronavirus first emerged.

The trend has not been identified in China, where it is thought that fewer people are obese.

Future studies

The research team says the study provides insights that will underpin a huge range of research.

Results of the study have already been shared with UK Government and World Health Organization, and are being compared with data from other countries around the world.

It was already known that Covid-19 can be more severe in older people and people with chronic heart, lung, and kidney disease, a weakened immune system, diabetes, and some cancers.

Less is known about how the virus affects people on the basis of other underlying health conditions, including obesity.

The study, funded by UKRI – Medical Research Council, has been made available early through a preprint server. The findings will be published in a peer-reviewed journal soon.

Gathering this information took tremendous dedication and effort from thousands of research staff across the UK. Together they have created an open resource that will be used by scientists across the world to better understand this new disease.

Dr Kenneth BaillieAcademic Consultant in Critical Care Medicine and the Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh

Related links

Pre-print of scientific publication

£5m Covid-19 study seeks to understand virus impact

Roslin scientists support work to tackle coronavirus

Image credit: Siora Photography on Unsplash