People who are slightly or almost overweight have the lowest risk of COVID-19: CDC

  • The CDC found that people who are obese or very underweight are at the highest risk for COVID-19.
  • A BMI at the peak of being overweight was associated with the lowest risk of death, hospitalization, or intensive care.
  • BMI is an imperfect measure of health, but it is a tool to protect people at risk with obesity or underweight.
  • Visit the Insider Business section for more stories.

People who are almost or slightly overweight may be at less risk of serious complications from COVID-19, according to a new report.

While obesity has long been considered a risk factor for complications from COVID-19, a report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people with a slightly higher than that defined as “normal” may have a lower risk of death and serious illness.

The BMI classifies anything above 24.9 as overweight.

Researchers at the CDC studied data from 148,494 American adults who were hospitalized with COVID-19 from March to December 2020. They found that people who were overweight or just on the verge of it, with a BMI between 23.7 and 25.9, they were less likely to be hospitalized. , require intensive care or die of COVID-19, after taking age into account.

Supporting previous evidence, people with obesity and people with a lower-than-normal BMI, such as 18.5 or less, had a much higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

These results suggest that the relationship between COVID-19 and body weight is not straightforward, and more nuanced studies like this one are crucial to assessing individual risk for coronavirus.

BMI is an imperfect measure of health

BMI is a measure of body weight in relation to height (you can calculate yours on the CDC website). While it is often used to assess risk for chronic diseases, someone may have a higher BMI and be perfectly healthy.

“At the individual level, BMI may not be a perfect indicator of a person’s health risk. It is one of several measures we have to assess health risks,” said previously Dr. W. Scott Butsch, director of obesity medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Business Insider.

This is because BMI does not take into account body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat) or where body fat is distributed. Both of these factors can be important for health and for the risk of conditions such as metabolic dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, and


BMI was created in the 19th century and was based on standards for white Europeans at the time, so it may not be accurate for assessing the health of different demographics, including people of different races.

Despite its limitations, a higher BMI is a good reason to get vaccinated

While a higher BMI does not guarantee health problems, there is good evidence that people with obesity are at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19.

For this reason, obesity is considered a condition that qualifies for early access to a vaccine in many states.

It can also complicate a person’s relationship with the medical industry, as weight stigma is pervasive, leaving people feeling ashamed and marginalized for being obese, even from some doctors.

This can discourage people from getting vaccinated if they are obese.

Yet despite the nuanced relationship between weight and health, it’s best to sign up for that vaccine if you can, both to protect yourself and the community, experts told Insider’s Anna Miller.

“If you can avoid contracting COVID, you can avoid having to potentially endure not only serious illness and residual complications, but also weight-biased medical care that could possibly worsen your results,” said Christy Harrison, Registered Dietitian Against Diet Presenting the Food Psych podcast, previously told Insider.

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