The Most Serious Comorbidity

Driving home from the ophthalmologist, I had the radio on, and heard an announcement that the greatest comorbidity factor in covid was obesity.  So I checked the net, and sure enough, I found that CDC announced:

About 78% of people who have been hospitalized, needed a ventilator or died from Covid-19 have been overweight or obese, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new study Monday.

Just over 42% of the U.S. population was considered obese in 2018, according to the agency’s most recent statistics. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index of 25 or more, while obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or more.

I think back, remembering that the BMI was first termed the Quetelet Index – named after the guy who developed the equation – Adolfe Quetelet – an early stats guy and sociologist (most of his work occurred between 1820 and 1855) who worked in meteorology, astronomy, stats, sociology, demography, and even criminology.  A researcher who was spread out across a lot of topics – and all related in the use of statistics.

Quetelet’s index relates body mass to height, and the calculation is basically body mass divided by height squared.  Obviously, flaws in the index will be exaggerated as you move away from the median – and Quetelet was a generation too early to be using fractional powers to correct that.

I see no reason to question the contention that 42% of the US population qualifies as obese, using the BMI . . . though I do question grabbing an pre-civil war equation and shifting it, unchanged to evaluate obesity.  At any rate, if we’re looking at 42% of Americans as obese, it’s kind of hard not to figure another 36% might well be overweight – at 218 pounds, and 6’3” I come out overweight on the BMI.  Muhammad Ali weighed in at 215 when he fought Frazier – and at 6’3” he too checked out as overweight.  Neither man looks flabby to me.  (Joe Frazier fought at 5’11” and 205 pounds – a BMI of 28.6)

I have a hunch that obesity is indeed the most significant comorbidity with covid.  I just wish that Quetelet’s Index had been a better researched, more developed equation when it was renamed the BMI and became a standardized measurement. 

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