Factbox: How does severe COVID-19 increase risk?


LONDON (Reuters) – Evidence emerging worldwide suggests that people who are overweight or obese are at risk of becoming more seriously ill with COVID-19, a disease caused by the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus .

File photo: On August 12, 2006, a passenger in London was waiting for a delayed flight at Terminal Four of Heathrow Airport. REUTERS / Toby Melville / File Photo

Scientists are still learning which specific mechanisms can explain this link, but they say that there are some possible factors:

Fat adhesin

– Obesity leads to accumulation of fat in vital organs like the heart, and leads to insulin resistance and high blood pressure. This means that obesity often coincides with other health conditions, including diabetes, a weakened heart, and a less well-functioning liver and kidneys.

– Excess fat can also affect the respiratory system. In other words, it can enable one to get breath and less blood and oxygen around the body. It also has effects on inflammation and immune functions.

– “Obesity puts additional pressure and metabolic stress on almost every organ system in the body,” said Susan Zeb, professor of diet and population health at Oxford University, UK. “So it is perhaps not surprising that it also increases the risk of COVID-19 complications.”

Fat tissue

– Adipose tissue – also known as adipose tissue – contains high levels of an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE2, which is used by new coronaviruses to enter cells.

People with high levels of ACE2 in their blood and other tissues are more likely to get COVID-19 infection.

Two ‘panda’ clashes

Francesco Rubino, specialist in obesity and metabolic and bariatric surgery chair at King’s College London, calls the Kovid-obesity link “a clash of two epidemics”.

“The (coronavirus) epidemic actually brings out the need to deal with obesity more aggressively,” he said. “One lesson from the COVID-19 epidemic is that not treating obesity is not an option.”

Reporting by Kate Kelland

Our standard:Thomson Reuters Trust Theory.

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