(NEXSTAR) — Obese individuals may be at a greater risk of severe COVID-19 complications, according to a new report released by The World Obesity Federation.
The report links obesity with a series of health complications related to COVID-19. It found that increased bodyweight “is the second greatest predictor of hospitalization and a high risk of death for people suffering from COVID-19.”
Only age ranks as a higher risk factor.
The report also found that in countries with higher rates of obesity, the rates of COVID-19 tended to increase.
“We show that in those countries where overweight affects only a minority of the adult population, the rates of death from COVID-19 are typically less than one-tenth the levels found in countries where overweight affects the majority of adults,” the report states.
It also found that “drivers” of obesity, including the consumption of high levels of processed foods, “are associated with mortality from COVID-19,” as a diet low in essential nutrients may weaken the immune system’s defenses.
Of the 2.5 million COVID deaths by the end of February 2021, the report said that 2.2 million were in countries where over half the population is classified as overweight.
The report relied on analyses of peer-reviewed data, but acknowledged that its “figures are by necessity incomplete.”
“A clearer picture may emerge as the pandemic develops further,” the report states.
The study draws a further connection between obesity and other respiratory viral infections, including influenza and MERS, both of which “show worse outcomes linked to excess bodyweight.”
“An overweight population is an unhealthy population,” the report reads, “and a pandemic waiting to happen.”
The World Obesity Federation — a conglomeration of scientists, medical practitioners and researchers from over 50 regional and national obesity associations — closes by urging governments and health service providers to increase obesity monitoring and surveillance and to develop “system-based approaches” to obesity prevention and treatment.