Report finds obesity major factor in COVID-19 deaths

The majority of global COVID-19 deaths have been in countries where many people are obese, a worldwide study found on Thursday (March 4).

With coronavirus fatality rates 10 times higher in nations where at least 50% of adults are overweight.

The report, which described a "dramatic" correlation between countries' COVID-19 death and obesity rates, found that 90% or 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from the pandemic disease so far were in countries with high levels of obesity.

Olivia Barata Cavalcanti is a doctor and director of science and programs at the World Obesity Federation.

''So this is not exactly surprising. The surprising part is that governments haven't really acted on obesity until now. So now we have this perfect storm of an obesity pandemic and COVID-19 pandemic."

The study analyzed the COVID-19 death figures from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory data on obesity.

Strikingly, the authors said, there is no example of a country where people are generally not overweight or obese having high COVID-19 death rates.

The report found that in the U.S. and Britain, for example, both COVID-19 death rates and obesity levels were among the highest.

John Wilding is a professor of medicine at Britain's University of Liverpool and president of the World Obesity Federation.

"I think it's really important that countries around the world work together to put into place systematic approaches to both prevent and treat obesity. This means making changes to food systems, transport systems and providing good healthcare options for people living with obesity so that they can access effective interventions."

Wilding says obesity should be recognized as a key COVID-19 health risk and taken into account in vaccination plans.

Video Transcript

- The majority of global COVID-19 deaths have been in countries where many people are obese, a worldwide study found on Thursday. With coronavirus fatality rates 10 times higher in nations where at least 50% of adults are overweight. The report, which described a dramatic correlation between countries COVID-19 death and obesity rates, found that 90%, or 2.2 million of the 2 and 1/2 million deaths from the pandemic so far, were in countries with high levels of obesity. Olivia Barata Cavalcanti is a doctor and Director of Science and Programs at the World Obesity Federation.

OLIVIA BARATA CAVALCANTI: So this is not exactly surprising. The surprising part is that governments haven't really acted on obesity until now, so now we have this perfect storm of obesity pandemic and COVID-19 pandemic.

- The study analyzed the COVID-19 death figures from Johns Hopkins University in the United States and the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory data on obesity. Strikingly, the authors said there is no example of a country where people are generally not overweight or obese having high COVID-19 death rates. The report found that in the US and Britain, for example, both COVID-19 death rates and obesity levels were among the highest. John Wilding is a professor of medicine at Britain's University of Liverpool and President of the World Obesity Federation.

JOHN WILDING: I think it's really important that countries around the world work together to put into place systematic approaches to both prevent and treat obesity. This means making changes to food systems, transport systems, and providing good health care options for people living with obesity so that they can access effective interventions.

- Wilding says obesity should be recognized as a key COVID-19 health risk and taken into account in vaccination plans.