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Covid and Obesity

I ran across an article with a bit more information on   covid and its relationship with obesity.

Now the Body Mass Index isn’t a perfect tool, designed for medical purposes.  Quetelet developed the formula back in 1830 – a time when fractional powers weren’t readily in use, and he wasn’t a medical sort, more an early stats guy and sociology type.  The formula’s weakness is that it calculates things where short people seem slimmer and tall folks seem fatter.  It’s a problem.  Still, you can measure with a broken tape measure, and still use the data ,so the problem isn’t insurmountable.

“Using data from nearly 150 000 US adults diagnosed with COVID-19 from March to December 2020, the analysis showed that half of the patients were obese and about 28% were overweight based on BMI—calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. Among them, the risk of hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit, and death were lowest among patients whose BMI was in the healthy range of 18.5 to 24.9 or just above it. The risks rose sharply as BMIs increased.

The relative risk of mechanical ventilation among individuals with the highest BMIs of 45 or greater was up to double that of patients with a healthy weight. In addition, the highest BMIs were linked with a 61% increased risk of death and a 33% increased risk of hospitalization compared with healthy weight. Patients with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 had a 7% increased risk of hospitalization, an 8% increased risk of dying, and a 35% increased risk of mechanical ventilation compared with patients in the healthy weight category.”

Well, let’s look at that BMI – flawed or not.  I stood 6’3” before I broke my back, and 6’2” after, and, while I strongly believe that a smashed vertebrae shouldn’t affect the outcome of the formula, I run across a bunch of nurses and the occasional MD who take Quetelet’s equation as gospel.   CDC has a BMI calculator here.

So you can check it with your own data – I come out at 30 – just squeezing in to the obese category.  If I hadn’t smashed that vertebrae, I’d be 29.9 and just overweight – and safer from covid.  Still, to get up to that 45 BMI that  carries the greatest risk, I’d have to weigh  about 350 pounds.  To be honest, I think carrying an additional 115 pounds would be a problem with or without covid.  On the other end, a guy 5 feet tall could make that 45 BMI just before he  passed 230 pounds. 

I guess my best move to reduce the risk is to either get that inch of height back, or to lose a pound and get down to 29.9.  Your figures may vary – and remember that even if the BMI calculator is flawed, it has been used consistently.   I have a hunch that losing one pound won’t drop my risk factor by 7 percent, even if the study shows that result. 

1 thought on “Covid and Obesity”

  1. While I would agree that the BMI has flaws, there does appear to be a correlation between extra body fat and an overall vulnerability to infectious and other types of disease. Currently the thought is this is because of the high levels of inflammation found in bodies of overweight people. Some studies show the excess fat itself causes an increase in inflammation. Some studies show the inflammation is caused by the things that cause you to put on weight: poor diet, unwholesome chemicals found in most foods, lack of exercise, addictive chemicals, chronic illness and medical drugs. However, inflammation from these same things are also found in people who are not overweight and while this group of people also seem to have higher incidences of chronic disease than people who don’t have high inflammation due to a better lifestyle, their vulnerability to, and responses to this virus didn’t appear to be as high as those with high inflammation and who are also overweight. I would like to see some statistics comparing “normal” BMI people who have high inflammation from any or all of the above, vs those of “normal” BMI who don’t have high inflammation and their response to the virus. It might help us understand why seemingly healthy people who were infected became hospitalized and died. Of course, if the directives in the medical community are to not treat the initial signs of the illness and to wait to hospitalize until you can’t breathe – which flies in the face of ANY form of medicine I’ve ever known – we have another set of variables that might be more important than BMI or inflammation in the body. Those variables come real close to murder in my book.

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