“Why COVID-19 is more deadly in people with obesity—even if they’re young”

“The stickiest blood I’ve ever seen” and other weight-related factors worsen the coronavirus disease”


Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center and the Heising-Simons Foundation.

“When the first wave of coronavirus hit the state of Vermont in the spring, patients from all corners of the state came to the intensive care unit at the University of Vermont Medical Center. There, critical care physician MaryEllen Antkowiak quickly saw a tragic pattern: Patients arrived at the hospital after a few days of flulike symptoms and fever. They tested positive for COVID-19. They grew increasingly short of breath. Many ended up on ventilators, and many died.

“In addition to this course of disease, patients frequently shared one additional attribute: obesity. “These were otherwise healthy, hard-working people,” Antkowiak says. “Their major risk factor for getting this sick was obesity.”

“Since the pandemic began, dozens of studies have reported that many of the sickest COVID-19 patients have been people with obesity. In recent weeks, that link has come into sharper focus as large new population studies have cemented the association and demonstrated that even people who are merely overweight are at higher risk. For example, in the first metaanalysis of its kind, published on 26 August in Obesity Reviews, an international team of researchers pooled data from scores of peer-reviewed papers capturing 399,000 patients. They found that peoplewith obesity who contracted SARS-CoV-2 were 113% more likely than people of healthy weight to land in the hospital, 74% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, and 48% more likely to die.

“A constellation of physiological and social factors drives those grim numbers. The biology of obesity includes impaired immunity, chronic inflammation, and blood that’s prone to clot, all of which can worsen COVID-19. And because obesity is so stigmatized, people with obesity may avoid medical care.

“We didn’t understand early on what a major risk factor obesity was. … It’s not until more recently that we’ve realized the devastating impact of obesity, particularly in younger people,” says Anne Dixon, a physician-scientist who studies obesity and lung disease at the University of Vermont. That “may be one reason for the devastating impact of COVID-19 in the United States, where 40% of adults are obese.”…”

SCIENCE Magazine

“The Coronavirus Attacks Fat Tissue, Scientists Find”

The research may help explain why people who are overweight and obese have been at higher risk of severe illness and death from Covid.

By Roni Caryn Rabin

Published Dec. 8, 2021Updated Dec. 14, 2021

From the start of the pandemic, the coronavirus seemed to target people carrying extra pounds. Patients who were overweight or obese were more likely to develop severe Covid-19 and more likely to die.

Though these patients often have health conditions like diabetes that compound their risk, scientists have become increasingly convinced that their vulnerability has something to do with obesity itself.

Now researchers have found that the coronavirus infects both fat cells and certain immune cells within body fat, prompting a damaging defensive response in the body.

“The bottom line is, ‘Oh my god, indeed, the virus can infect fat cells directly,’” said Dr. Philipp Scherer, a scientist who studies fat cells at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who was not involved in the research.

Whatever happens in fat doesn’t stay in fat,” he added. “It affects the neighboring tissues as well.”

“The research has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, but it was posted online in October, confirming earlier findings by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York and elsewhere…”

The New York Times Dec2021

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