Two new studies from NYU Langone Health are part of a growing body of evidence that suggests obesity may be one of the most important predictors of severe 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
One of the largest studies in the United States to identify obesity as a prominent risk factor for severe illness from COVID-19 analyzed data from more than 4,000 people with COVID-19 who sought care at NYU Langone between March 1 and April 2.
“Obesity is more important for hospitalization than whether you have high blood pressure or diabetes, though these often go together, and it’s more important than coronary disease or cancer or kidney disease, or even pulmonary disease,” says Leora Horwitz, MD, the paper’s senior author and director of the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science and associate professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone.
The data also suggest obesity appears to be a factor for higher risk of death from COVID-19, though to a lesser degree, Dr. Horwitz says. However, she notes the findings are preliminary, and says that some of the data are still incomplete, emphasizing that the paper has not been peer reviewed.
Another study from NYU Langone found that those with obesity were twice as likely to be hospitalized and were at even higher risk of requiring critical care. The link between obesity and more severe cases of the disease was not seen in patients over age 60. The seriousness of the illness often comes as a surprise to younger adults, and “provides another layer of shock to this disease,” says the paper’s author, Jennifer L. Lighter, MD, hospital epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone.
“It means that as clinicians, we should be thinking a little more carefully about those patients with obesity when they come in—we should worry about them a little bit more,” Dr. Horwitz says.
Read more from The New York Times.