MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Research shows obesity increases the risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
Now a CDC study of more than 70,000 hospitalized COVID patients from March to December finds 50.8% were obese and 28.3% were overweight.
"People who are obese and get COVID-19 have much worse outcomes," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian.
Dr. Mozaffarian is a cardiologist and dean at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. He authored another study that looked at more than 900,000 COVID hospitalizations.
At least one of four conditions – obesity, hypertension, diabetes, or heart failure – was responsible for the majority of hospitalizations nationwide, with obesity being the top risk.
"COVID-19 is like pouring gasoline on a fire when you have those underlying conditions, because it attacks not only the lungs but attacks the blood vessels and it causes inflammation throughout the body," said Dr. Mozaffarian.
Many states are prioritizing that patients with obesity receive the COVID-19 vaccine. It's estimated 42% of adults in the United States are obese, according to the CDC.
"The government is telling us every day, appropriately, social distance, wear a mask, hand-wash, all of these really important things to reduce the risk and bend the curve," Dr. Mozaffarian said. "But at the same time, it drives me crazy as a physician, as a public health expert that officials haven't also been saying and eat a little bit healthier, move a little bit more, exercise."
Dr. Mozaffarian said he hopes more people get the message that maintaining a healthy weight can be live saving.
Experts say obesity can also affect the immune system, which can make people more vulnerable to infections and make it harder to fight them.
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