Fast Five Quiz: Obesity Comorbidities

Elif A. Oral, MD


January 31, 2022

Figure 1. Computer generated image showing relationship between obesity and respiratory disorders.

Obesity has been shown to triple the risk for hospitalization due to COVID-19, and evidence suggests the risks for hospitalization, critical care admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death all increase with higher BMI.

A recent study found that obesity appears to significantly increase the risk for long-term COVID-19 complications. Although obesity did not affect the risk for death after the acute phase of infection, patients with obesity were more likely to require diagnostic tests for the heart, lung, and kidney; for gastrointestinal or hormonal symptoms; for blood disorders; and for mental health problems after acute COVID-19.

An observational, retrospective review of nearly 12,000 patients from a single US center showed that people with obesity who underwent metabolic surgery lost on average almost 19% more body weight than did matched control individuals who did not have surgery during a median follow-up of nearly 8 years. Almost 800 people from the study group developed COVID-19 during the first year of the pandemic; those who had undergone metabolic surgery had a 49% lower risk for hospitalization, a 63% reduced risk for the need for supplemental oxygen, and a 60% lower risk for severe COVID-19 compared with the control group, highlighting the impact of obesity on COVID-19 severity.

A 2021 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a nonlinear relationship between BMI and COVID-19 severity among 148,494 adults with COVID-19. In most instances, the lowest risks were at BMIs near the threshold between healthy weight and overweight, whereas higher BMIs were associated with increased risk. Overweight and obesity were risk factors for invasive mechanical ventilation, and obesity was a risk factor for hospitalization and death, particularly among adults aged 65 years or younger. This study highlighted a dose-response relationship between higher BMI and severe COVID-19–associated illness and the need for progressively intensive illness management as obesity severity increases.

Learn more about COVID-19 and obesity.

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