Obesity Can Further Complicate H1N1

New research suggests that obesity may be a key factor for H1N1 victims who end up in the hospital.

Early Show contributor Dr. Holly Phillips of WCBS-TV
sat down with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith to discuss the connection.

According to Phillips, the numbers are very interesting.

"Of the 268 hospitalized patients for whom we had weights, actually 58 percent of them were obese. And 25 percent of that group were considered morbidly obese," Phillips explained. "Now, that's more than 100 pounds overweight, so they were significantly overweight and they were at five times increased risk of complications from the H1N1 flu than the general population."

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Obesity and especially morbid obesity can be particularly dangerous.

"Very much so. Morbid obesity in this context was thought to be as much of a risk factor, even more than pregnancy, which we know is a six times increased risk for complications. So it's really a serious risk factor and something we need to look closer at," Phillips explained.

"And so what's the take away here, what do we really need to understand?" Smith asked.

"What the study - they couldn't look at exactly what was causing the complications in the morbidly obese population, but we do know people who are obese are at increased risk of having underlying illnesses, diabetes, heart problems, and respiratory problems. And that can place them at increase risk for H1N1," Phillips said.

"A third of the patients who are morbidly obese did have underlying complications, so this makes it seem as though obesity itself may be a risk factor for having these problems with the H1N1 flu," she added.

Phillips also pointed out that this correlation is different than the seasonal flu.

"We never thought before that obesity was a risk factor for complication with the seasonal flu, but H1N1 is proving it different," she said.