Overweight Covid-19 patients at higher risk of complications, UAE researchers say

Researchers at RAK Hospital found obese people, smokers and those who eat junk food are more likely to develop severe illness

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People with obesity or those who lead an unhealthy lifestyle are more likely to require a hospital stay if they develop Covid-19, and are at a greater risk of developing complications, according to a UAE study.

Researchers at the Arabian Wellness and Lifestyle Management centre at RAK Hospital studied more than 3,200 people in the emirate to understand factors that put people at increased risk from the coronavirus.

Overweight people were 62 per cent more likely to develop complications.

People with high risk factors are more likely to need hospitalisation

Patients with a diet high in fast food were 51 per cent more at risk; smokers 45 per cent; people over the age of 50, 40 per cent; and those suffering from heart problems 33 per cent.

“Obesity and bad eating habits increase the risk of Covid-19 infection and its complications,” said Dr Biju Viswambharan, specialist in internal medicine at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain.

Lack of physical activity accounted for an increased risk of 26 per cent while patients with diabetes were at a 23 per cent higher risk.

“People with high risk factors are more likely to need hospitalisation,” said Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director at the hospital. “As a strategy to combat Covid-19, it becomes imperative to gather this information.”

She said although anyone can become infected, certain risk factors make people especially vulnerable.

Previous studies have shown underlying health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes significantly increase a person’s chances of becoming seriously sick with the virus.

A patient’s sex is also a significant factor, with men at a higher risk of developing complications and dying.

A study conducted by the University Maryland School of Medicine in the US examined almost 67,000 Covid-19 patients who required a hospital stay.

Of these, men were at a 30 per cent higher risk of dying compared to women of the same age and health status.

Those who were obese, had hypertension or poorly-controlled diabetes were also at a higher risk of death, the research showed.

In the UAE, 31 per cent of women and 25 per cent of men are obese, according to a regional review of data compiled by the World Obesity Federation.

People who are obese are about 74 per cent more likely to require intensive care, and 48 per cent more likely to die as a result of developing complications from the virus, according to the US research.

"It is thought to be due to decreased efficacy of the immune system in these groups," Dr Viswambharan said. "This is further compounded by hypertension, diabetes and heart ailments, which are often seen among patients."

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