The World Obesity Federation (WOF) in its annual report released on Thursday found a connection between increased COVID-19 deaths and high obesity rates.
“Comparing countries around the globe we find a close association between deaths from COVID-19 and the prevalence of overweight in the adult population,” the WOF said in its analysis of research. “No country where the average adult BMI is below 25 kg/m2 has a high COVID-19 mortality rate. No country where less than half the adults are experiencing overweight has a high COVID-19 mortality rate."
The WOF, which is associated with the World Health Organization, found that the connection between increased risk of severe COVID-19 cases or death and higher bodyweight was observed across multiple countries.
A U.S. study, for example, reported that obese people were twice as likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and were six times more likely to die after developing the disease. A study in China also found that people who were overweight, but not obese, had an 84 percent increased chance for developing severe coronavirus symptoms. The odds rose to 240 percent if a person was obese.
The organization ruled out potential explanations for the correlation between obesity and severe COVID-19 cases such as old age, wealth and increased reporting, saying the link appeared to be independent of these factors.
The WOF observed, however, that a few countries appeared to go against the trend.
"Countries that appear to run against the trend include New Zealand, Australia and several Gulf states, where overweight prevalence among adults is high (over 60%) but reported deaths from COVID-19 are relatively low (below 10 per 100,000)," the WOF wrote. "These figures are clearly affected by national responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will change as the pandemic unfolds and as vaccination programmes are extended."
According to the World Health Organization, more than 114 million coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide as well as more than 2.5 million related deaths.