Obesity Linked to Increased Risk of long Term COVID-19 Complications

Killian Meara

Killian Meara, assistant editor for ContagionLive, joined the MJH Life Sciences team in November 2020. He graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in liberal studies, and concentrations in history and psychology. He enjoys film, reading, and pretending he is a good cook. Follow him on Twitter @krmeara or email him at [email protected]

Those with moderate or severe obesity had a greater risk of hospitalization at 10-month follow up.

A recent observational study conducted by investigators from the Cleveland Clinic has discovered that individuals with moderate or severe obesity and have recovered from an infection with COVID-19 are at a greater risk of experiencing long-term complications.

Results from the study were published in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

"To our knowledge, this current study for the first time suggests that patients with moderate to severe obesity are at a greater risk of developing long-term complications of COVID-19 beyond the acute phase," Ali Aminian, director of Cleveland Clinic's Bariatric & Metabolic Institute and principal investigator of the research said.

For the observational study, the team of investigators examined 3 indicators of possible long-term complications of COVID-19, including hospital admission, mortality, and need for diagnostic medical tests, from a registry of patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection within the Cleveland Clinic health system in a five-month period.

The study included 2,839 patients who did not require intensive care unit admission and survived the acute phase of COVID-19.

They then compared the outcomes among 5 groups of patients based on their body mass index (BMI). The groups were 18.5-24.9 (normal), 25-29.9 (overweight), 30-34.9 (mild obesity), 35-39.9 (moderate obesity), and 40 or greater (severe obesity).

Findings from the study demonstrated that 44% of the study participants required hospitalization and 1% died during a 10-month follow up. Compared to people with a normal BMI, those with moderate obesity had a 28% greater risk of hospitalization and those with severe obesity had a 30% greater risk.

Additionally, those with a BMI of 35 or greater had a significantly higher need for diagnostic tests to assess cardiac, pulmonary, vascular, renal, gastrointestinal, and mental health problems.

"The observations of this study can possibly be explained by the underlying mechanisms at work in patients who have obesity, such as hyper-inflammation, immune dysfunction, and comorbidities," Bartolome Burguera, chair of Cleveland Clinic's Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute and co-investigator of the study said. "Those conditions can lead to poor outcomes in the acute phase of COVID-19 in patients with obesity and could possibly lead to an increased risk of long-term complications of COVID-19 in this patient population."