Being obese or heavily overweight increases the risk of death from coronavirus, according to a new report from Public Health England.
Obese people are not at greater risk of catching the virus itself but are significantly more likely to become seriously ill and be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) with the virus compared to those with a healthy body mass index (BMI).
The risk of hospitalization, ICU admission and death grows as a person’s BMI increases, the report found.
“The current evidence is clear that being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, as well as from many other life-threatening diseases,” said Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England Alison Tedstone in a statement.
“It can be hard to lose weight and even harder to sustain it, which is why people cannot easily do it on their own. Losing weight can bring huge benefits for health – and may also help protect against the health risks of Covid-19. The case for action on obesity has never been stronger.”
Researchers found that overall exercise levels in England had not increased during the pandemic and that sales of snacks and alcohol in high street shops grew during the same period of time.
The report summarises a range of evidence, including one study which found that for those with a BMI of 35 to 40, risk of death from coronavirus increases by 40% compared to those not living with obesity. That risk rises to 90% for those with a BMI over 40.
Almost two-thirds of adults in England are overweight or obese, with people aged 55 to 74, those living in deprived areas and certain black, Asian and minority ethnic groups more severely affected.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to maintain a healthy weight during a visit to a doctor’s surgery on Friday.
Johnson was questioned over a reports his government may ban television junk food adverts before 9 p.m.
“I’m not normally a believer in nannying or bossying type of politics but the reality is that obesity is one of the real co-morbidity factors. Losing weight is frankly one of the ways that you can reduce your own risks from Covid-19,” Johnson said.
The British leader was hospitalized and admitted to an ICU earlier this year after contracting coronavirus.
He told journalists on Friday that since his illness he had lost more than 6kg in weight by eating less and doing lots of exercise.