New York: While links between obesity and mortality have become increasingly evident, since the earliest pandemic of the 21st century, Covid has provided fresh impetus to tackle global obesity.
Covid-19 pandemic has been more fatal for adult populations residing in parts of the world characterised by excess body weight, according to researchers from The University of Texas at San Antonio and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“This association holds across countries belonging to different income groups and is not sensitive to a population’s median age, proportion of the elderly, and/or proportion of females,” said lead principal investigator Hamid Beladi from UTSA.
To explain, the team analysed plausible associations of Covid-19 mortality and excess weight in nearly 5.5 billion adults from 154 countries around the world. To identify potential patterns in data, the researchers employed cutting-edge techniques of statistical analyses.
Beladi said that when the proportion of the overweight people in a country’s adult population is one percentage point higher than the proportion of the overweight in a second country’s adult population, it is reasonable to predict that Covid-19 mortality would be 3.5 percentage points higher in the first country than it would be in the second.
“The average individual is less likely to die from Covid-19 in a country with a relatively low proportion of the overweight in the adult population, all other things being equal, than she or he would be in a country with a relatively high proportion of the overweight in the adult population,” Beladi said.
The team noted that, clinically, excess body weight is related to several comorbidities that can lead to an increasingly severe course of and consequent death from Covid-19. Metabolic disorders, for example, can predispose individuals to a poorer Covid-19 outcome. Since excess body weight can result in a greater volume and longer duration of contagion, it can also lead to a higher level of exposure to Covid-19.
The researchers believe their findings can be used to uphold public policy regulations on the food industry, to the extent that it profits off the sales of processed foods, foods high in salt, sugar and saturated fats. Obesity has become an epidemic, driven in large part by high-calorie diets laden with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
With the death toll from the current pandemic exceeding 4.5 million, the group’s main findings call for immediate and effective regulations that are long overdue, Beladi said.