Official data, studies, and the current outlook already confirm that when the current COVID-19 pandemic ends, another pandemic with devastating consequences for the health of citizens will be present: "Obesity is the pandemic that is waiting for us", assures Dr. Tim Lobstein, advisor to the WHO and the British National Health Service. Together with a team of researchers, this expert has analyzed for the World Obesity Federation the links between COVID mortality and the rates of obesity and overweight in the population of different countries.
The conclusions are truly overwhelming: the lethality of the virus can be up to ten times higher in those countries where more than 50% of the adult population is overweight, considering as such a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 25, and obesity a BMI of more than 30. Therefore, the authors of the study recommend that countries include obese people among the vulnerable groups prioritized for vaccination.
Of the 2.5 million deaths caused by this pandemic worldwide, 2.2 million have occurred in countries with a high level of overweight, as pointed out in the report, which cites the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy and Portugal as some of the countries that exemplify this trend.
For their part, the highest mortality rates per 100,000 inhabitants occur in Belgium (191.76) and Slovenia (182.6), which have a percentage of overweight population of 59.5% and 56.1% respectively.
At the other extreme is Vietnam, the country with the lowest percentage of overweight population in the world (18.5%) and the second lowest COVID mortality rate (0.004 per 100,000 inhabitants). The study also shows that the USA, with 67.9% of the population overweight, has 152.5 deaths due to coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants. Spain, with 53% of the population overweight, according to data from the Ministry of Health, has a rate of 148 deaths.
Added to all the above is the finding that vaccines may be less effective among people who are overweight, as certified by Italian researchers.
The World Health Organization has already warned on several occasions to raise awareness worldwide and to try to remedy the situation. "The relationship between obesity rates and mortality from COVID is clear and proven," said its general director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Overweight is second only to age, the most decisive factor in the lethality of the virus. In addition, there are three other factors that increase the risk: hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
The experts in charge of the study believe that investing in public health policies aimed at curbing obesity is an essential formula for preventing future pandemics or infections with such devastating triggers as COVID.
"We were shocked to see such a direct relationship between the proportion of overweight people in countries and adult deaths from COVID," says Dr. Lobstein.
"We knew the problem affected certain countries, but we were surprised that it was a global pattern." That trend has two exceptions: New Zealand and Iceland, two countries that developed early strategies for the protection of the most vulnerable population.
Lastly, data published by the British newspaper The Guardian, show that in hospital ICUs in the United Kingdom, a country with 64% of overweight adults, there were 20% of COVID patients with a normal weight, 32% overweight and 48% obese.
Meanwhile, in the same ICUs, but in the United States, where 68% of the adult population is overweight, 12% of the patients admitted were of normal weight, 24% were overweight and 64% were obese.
[This is a translation of the original article "El rasgo físico que multiplica por diez los fallecidos por coronavirus" published in espanadiario.net]