Obesity Most Significant Risk Factor to Covid-19 Hospitalization after Age

A new large-scale preliminary US study[1] looking at data from more than 4000 Covid-19 patients who sought medical care at Langone Health Hospital in New York City found that outside of older age (> 75 years of age), obesity was the single most significant risk factor that contributed to requiring hospitalization and critical care, such as requiring being on a ventilator. This is a different study than the one that I wrote about yesterday [2] which found that in people under the age of 60, obesity poses a significant risk factor of hospitalization, especially with respect to requiring Acute Care or Intensive Care (click here to read that article).

We Need to “Get” This

Taken together, these two large-sample US studies find that being obese (which is having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more) puts those under 60 years of age at significantly greater risk of being hospitalized and requiring critical care than any other factor, including high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD) [2], and having a BMI of 40 is the most significant risk factor after older age[1]. Old or young, being obese is a significant risk factor to requiring medical intervention in Covid-19. What many don’t realize is that 2/3 people in the US and Canada are either overweight or obese. 

How Big an Issue is Obesity?

One in three adults in the US are obese and one in four adults in Canada are obese. Not just overweight, but obese.

We have become used to this being common place, so much so that many of us consider “average weight” what is actually overweight (BMI between 25 and 30) and consider someone to be “overweight” when they are actually obese.

As mentioned in an article from earlier this week, recent US data found that 90% of patients hospitalized due to Covid-19 had underlying medical conditions including hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and as noted in that article, only 12% adults are considered metabolically healthy as defined as having a healthy waist circumference and normal systolic and diastolic blood pressure, blood glucose and HbA1C and cholesterol such as HDL, as well as triglycerides.

Looking at this information together, we need to understand that something as straight-forward as losing weight, particularly the weight that we carry around our middles can significantly improve our outcome should we become infected with Covid-19. 

With many experts suggesting that it is only a matter of time until we are all exposed to Covid-19, it would seem that it ‘s not a matter of “if”, but “when” and while we can’t change our age, but if we are overweight or obese, we can lose weight. If we are carrying excess fat around our abdomen (the risk of having an increased waist circumference) — even at normal body weight, we can lower that. It takes being willing to make dietary and lifestyle changes and it take some time, but in a matter of weeks, someone who is currently in the class I obesity category can be re-categorized as overweight and with persistence can achieve a healthy body weight and waist circumference.  Previous studies indicate that significant risk factors such as high blood pressure and abnormal blood sugar can be normalized in as little as 10 weeks with a well-designed diet of whole, real food and by making these changes now we can significantly lower our risk in a fairly short amount of time. Why would we not want to do so now given there is currently no vaccine for Covid-19 and no consistently effective medication yet?

[Note: If I hadn’t already gone from being obese to a normal body weight a few years ago, I certainly would be very motivated to do it now.]

For the past 5 years I have spent about half my clinical time helping others do just that, while helping them considerably improve their lab markers for several different metabolic conditions. Since we are already eating most of our meals at home, now is an ideal time to make the dietary changes needed to lower our risks of requiring hospitalization should we get Covid-19.

More Info?

If you would like more information about how I can help you lose weight and then keep it off, please reach out to me. All my services are now provided via Distance Consultation but I already have more than a decade of experience providing virtual nutrition support, so this is nothing new for me and I am licensed as a Dietitian in every province in Canada except PEI. I can also provide nutrition education services to those in the US and elsewhere.

You can find more about the details of the different packages I offer by looking under the Services tab or in the Shop. If you have any service-related questions please feel free to send me a note using the Contact Me form above, and I will reply as soon as I can.

To your good health!


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  1. Christopher M. Petrilli, Simon A. Jones, Jie Yang, Harish Rajagopalan, Luke F. O’Donnell, Yelena Chernyak, Katie Tobin, Robert J. Cerfolio, Fritz Francois, Leora I. Horwitz, 
  2. Lighter J, Phillips M, Hochman S et al, Obesity in patients younger than 60 years is a risk factor for Covid-19 hospital admission, accepted manuscript, Clinical Infectious Diseases. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa415,  https://academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa415/5818333
  3. Araújo J, Cai J, Stevens J. Prevalence of Optimal Metabolic Health in American Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2016. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders Vol 20, No. 20, pg 1-7, DOI: 10.1089/met.2018.0105