Obese men are more likely to die from Covid than obese women, the study shows
- Study of 3,500 hospital patients in New York showed that obese men suffer more
- Men were more likely to suffer from severe Covid at lower BMI levels than women
- Researchers were unable to determine why obesity affects men more
Research has suggested that obese men are more likely to die from and suffer severe covid than obese women.
Data from 3,530 infected patients hospitalized in New York showed that men do not have to be as obese as women to have a ‘significant association with higher hospital mortality’.
Academics also discovered obesity may be a stronger risk factor for severe Covid pneumonia and the need for a ventilator in men than in women.
In the study, a BMI of 35 to 39.9 was considered obesity in class II, while 40 and above were considered class III.
Obese patients were more likely to die in the hospital, develop severe pneumonia, or had to be connected to a ventilator compared to adults who had a healthy weight.
The association was stronger, the fatter people were, according to results published in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
The authors of the study said men were more likely to suffer from severe Covid at lower obesity levels than women.
The researchers were not able to determine why obesity had a stronger link to severe Covid in men than in women.
Research in New York has suggested that overweight men are more likely to die from and suffer severe Covid than overweight women [stock photo]
WHY DOES IT BE OVERWEIGHT WORSE?
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop severe Covid and die from it because they are generally less healthy and have poorer immune systems.
Covid has been shown to prey on people who are not in good health – it causes fluid accumulation in the lungs, blood clots, swelling of the airways and blood vessels, intense fever and can trigger an immune reaction. All of these can seriously damage vital organs.
Obese people are more likely to suffer severe versions of these effects because their bodies are already struggling to cope with it as a result of the load of carrying excess fat, hormonal and chemical changes triggered by obesity and higher frequencies of long-term diseases such as diabetes and blood pressure.
Fat in the abdomen pushes up on the membrane – the respiratory muscle – and compresses the lungs, making them weaker and less able to push viruses out when they enter, Science magazine explains.
Blood is also more likely to clot because vessels are damaged and not functioning properly, in part due to constant swelling and irritation caused by chemicals released by fat. One researcher told science obese people with Covid had ‘the stickiest blood I’ve ever seen’. These blood clots then travel to the lungs and other organs and can be fatal.
The immune system is also weaker in obese people because fat cells penetrate organs that would normally produce white blood cells, such as bone marrow, which means that their ability to work as normal is reduced. This means that it takes longer to fight the virus if the body is even able to do so.
And any organ dysfunction, such as that caused by heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or dementia, has been shown to make Covid-19 worse as it presents damaged parts of the body and exacerbates existing problems. All of these are reported to be more common in obese people.
They found that men who died with coronavirus had a higher rate of systemic inflation – an immune response – than women.
But the team from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York, could not link it to obesity.
Dr. Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, senior researcher in health behavior at the University of Oxford, said more work was needed because of the small number of women in the study.
He added: ‘There needs to be more research before we can say with certainty that class II obesity is less of a risk factor in women than in men.
‘What we can say with certainty now is that obesity is associated with an increased risk of poorer Covid-19 results in itself and is a risk factor for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, which also predisposes to worse results.
‘Obesity is a complex, chronic and relapsing condition and a major contributor to health inequalities. Structural drivers of obesity must be tackled as soon as possible. ‘
Obesity has been associated with more severe reactions to Covid because it causes lung and artery damage, making the effect of the virus more dangerous.
Previous studies suggest that being overweight can increase the risk of severe Covid by 40 percent, while overweight people are 70 percent more likely to be hospitalized because of the disease.
The study examined data from patients admitted between March 10 and May 1 last year.
Out of the 3,530 patients included in the analysis, 1,579 were women, 896 had a BMI below 25, 1,162 had a BMI of 25-29, 809 had a BMI of 30-34 and 663 had a BMI of 35 or above.
The authors also examined whether systemic inflammation was associated with an increased risk of death.
Dr. Arcelia Guerson-Gil, one of the authors of the paper, said: ‘It is known that a major cause of the severity and death of the disease is an excessive inflammatory response associated with high levels of circulating cytokines, such as IL-6.
‘Obesity is considered a condition of improved chronic inflammation, so we suspected that there may be an association between body mass index and systemic inflammation as indicated by IL-6 level. However, we found that this was not the case. ‘
The authors suggested obesity may lead to poor results for Covid due to other factors, such as poorer lung function, increased breathing work, or a higher expression of a receptor called ACE2, which allows Covid to enter cells in adipose tissue.