Scientists at New York University's Langone Health center have found that obesity is the single biggest factor in whether or not a patient will be hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 — the novel coronavirus. They conducted the largest study of U.S. hospitals in this pandemic so far, according to a report by ZDNet. They found that body composition played a big role in each individual's response to the virus.
Doctors have been searching tirelessly to better understand COVID-19, and why it manifests more severely in some patients than in others. Age has already been identified as one of the most important factors to decide risk of mortality in patients, but now another has been pinpointed as well. Doctors reportedly found that obesity was the biggest single factor in deciding whether a patient with COVID-19 would need to be admitted to a hospital.
The findings were published on Saturday in a paper written by several doctors, led by Christopher M. Petrilli of the NYU Grossman School. The paper was titled "Factors associated with hospitalization and critical illness among 4,103 patients with COVID-19 disease in New York City," and was made public on medRxiv. It has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it may be the beginning of an important discovery about coronavirus.
"The chronic condition with the strongest association with critical illness was obesity, with a substantially higher odds ratio than any cardiovascular or pulmonary disease," Petrilli wrote. This may indicate that heightened inflammation plays a role in the severity of the disease — something that other studies have reportedly speculated about. Obesity is often associated with "chronic low-grade inflammation."
While it has not been through rigorous peer-review, Petrilli and his colleagues wrote that this is "the largest case series from the United States to date." Their paper was written in the hopes of "understanding which patients are most at risk for hospitalization," which "is crucial for many reasons." It could help doctors decide how to anticipate the medical needs of individuals and communities, as well as how to triage patients upon arrival at the hospital.
Other doctors and medical experts have pointed to obesity as a big risk factor as well. In an op-ed for The New York Times last month, Dr. David S. Ludwig and Richard Malley noted that this is bad news for the U.S., statistically speaking.
"The huge burden of obesity and other chronic conditions among Americans puts most of us at direct risk," they wrote. "In fact, with obesity rates in the United States much higher than affected countries like South Korea and China, our outcomes — economic- and health-wise — could be much worse."
For the latest information on the cornavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.