Obesity and COVID, Is There an Increased Risk?

August 17, 2020

Not all of us are equal in the face of the complications that COVID-19 can cause. It is well known that the elderly, but also those with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or kidney failure and cardiovascular disease are more vulnerable.

In addition, a growing number of studies tend to show that people with obesity are at greater risk of developing severe complications when affected by COVID-19 regardless of their age.

Also, obese people are more vulnerable to certain viruses, as we have seen with influenza, H1N1 and other respiratory viruses.

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A few statistics

  • Obese people are 3 times more likely to suffer from complications of the virus and therefore be hospitalized for a longer period of time.
  • A French study shows that people suffering from obesity are twice as often admitted to intensive care than the general population.
  • A British study found that obese people saw their risk of death from Covid-19 increase by 40% and those with morbid obesity would see this risk increase to 90%.
  • Although patients under the age of 60 are generally considered a low-risk group, those suffering from obesity are twice as likely to be admitted to intensive care and 7 times more likely to be intubated or put on a ventilator.

Why is obesity an aggravating factor in the severity of symptoms?

It is not known why being significantly overweight weakens the body when faced with the coronavirus. However, several explanations are being considered:

  • Comorbidity

First, obese people are at higher risk of developing comorbidity such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease which are known to be risk factors for COVID-19.

  • Lung capacity

Obesity affects lung function. In effect, the accumulation of fat around the abdomen decreases breathing capacity and this dysfunction can increase the severity of respiratory tract infections.

  • Disruption of the immune system and inflammation

In overweight people, the body is in a chronic inflammatory state and, as has been seen with other viral diseases and especially influenza, patients suffering from obesity have a defect in their immune response. Thus, the virus can possibly trigger a violent inflammatory response of the immune system that the body will have difficulty facing.

  • Risk of thrombosis

There is an association that exists between severe COVID-19 and an increase in the frequency and severity of thrombotic events. Obesity is also known to promote the risk of arterial and venous thrombosis.


According to current studies, obesity is therefore an aggravating factor for patients affected by COVID-19.

In this pandemic, it is important to stay healthy and to protect ourselves and those we love. So, if you want to change your lifestyle, especially when it comes to food, this is definitely the right time to start.

We know that losing the extra pounds and maintaining the weight loss is not easy. This is why we offer to accompany you in this process. Our dietitians are here to help! On our website, you’ll certainly find the meal plan that’s right for you in order to help you rebalance your diet.


  • Zhou, F., Yu, T., Du, R., Fan, G., Liu, Y., Liu, Z., … & Guan, L. (2020). Clinical course and risk factors for mortality of adult inpatients with COVID-19 in Wuhan, China: a retrospective cohort study. The lancet.
  • Dietz, W., & Santos‐Burgoa, C. (2020). Obesity and its Implications for COVID‐19 Mortality. Obesity, 28(6), 1005-1005.
  • Kassir, R. (2020). Risk of COVID‐19 for patients with obesity. Obesity Reviews, 21(6).
  • Gao, F., Zheng, K. I., Wang, X. B., Sun, Q. F., Pan, K. H., Wang, T. Y., … & Zheng, M. H. (2020). Obesity is a risk factor for greater COVID-19 severity. Diabetes Care.
  • Luzi, L., & Radaelli, M. G. (2020). Influenza and obesity: its odd relationship and the lessons for COVID-19 pandemic. Acta Diabetologica, 1-6.
  • Caussy, C., Pattou, F., Wallet, F., Simon, C., Chalopin, S., Telliam, C., … & Delaunay, D. (2020). Prevalence of obesity among adult inpatients with COVID-19 in France. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 8(7), 562-564.
  • Simonnet, A., Chetboun, M., Poissy, J., Raverdy, V., Noulette, J., Duhamel, A., … & LICORN and the Lille COVID‐19 and Obesity study group. (2020). High prevalence of obesity in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus‐2 (SARS‐CoV‐2) requiring invasive mechanical ventilation. Obesity.
  • Lighter, J., Phillips, M., Hochman, S., Sterling, S., Johnson, D., Francois, F., & Stachel, A. (2020). Obesity in patients younger than 60 years is a risk factor for Covid-19 hospital admission. Clinical Infectious Diseases.
  • Sattar, N., McInnes, I. B., & McMurray, J. J. (2020). Obesity a risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection: multiple potential mechanisms. Circulation.
  • Public Health England. Excess Weight and COVID-19 Insights from new evidence. July 2020.
  • Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS). COVID-19 et risques thrombotiques. June 2020.


Jennifer Morzier
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

2 comments to “Obesity and COVID, Is There an Increased Risk?”

August 27, 2020 Erin said:

Even more important since it looks like the vaccine will not help if your BMI is over 30. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/health-53921141?

Cinzia Cuneo
August 27, 2020 Cinzia Cuneo said:

Hi Erin,
Thanks for the update.

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