rain.png
Wednesday May 12th, 2021 10:58AM

Doctors studying why obesity may be tied to serious COVID-19

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — In the early days of the pandemic, doctors noticed something about the people severely ill from COVID-19: Many were obese.

The link became more apparent as coronavirus swept across the globe and data mounted, and researchers are still trying to figure out why.

Excess weight increases the chances of developing a number of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. And those are among the conditions that can make COVID-19 patients more likely to get very sick.

But there's some evidence that obesity itself can increase the likelihood of serious complications from a coronavirus infection. One study of more than 5,200 infected people, including 35% who were obese, found that the chances of hospitalization rose for people with higher BMIs, even when taking into account other conditions that could put them at risk.

Scientists are still studying the factors that might be at play — the way obesity affects the immune system may be one — but say it's another example of the pandemic illuminating existing public health challenges.

Obesity may be one reason some countries or communities have been hit hard by the virus, researchers say. In the United States, the obesity rate among adults has climbed for decades and is now at 42%. The rate is even higher among Black and Hispanic Americans.

A person who is 5 feet, 7 inches tall is considered obese starting at around 190 pounds, or a body mass index of 30. The increased risk for serious COVID-19 illness appears more pronounced with extreme obesity, or a BMI of 40 or higher.

Researchers say multiple factors likely make it harder for people who are obese to fight a coronavirus infection, which can damage the lungs. Carrying around a lot of extra weight strains the body, and that excess fat could limit the lungs' ability to expand and breathe.

Another issue is chronic inflammation, which often comes with obesity. Inflammation is a natural way our bodies fight harmful intruders like viruses. But long-lasting inflammation isn’t healthy and could undermine your body’s defenses when a real threat arises.

“It’s like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an obesity researcher and dean of Tufts University's school of nutrition science and policy near Boston.

And even if people who are obese aren't diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease, Mozaffarian notes their health may not be optimal.

How fat is distributed in the body may play a role too. One study found an increased risk for death from COVID-19 for people with severe obesity, but only among men. The findings could reflect that men tend to carry fat around the stomach, said Sara Tartof, a co-author of the study who researches infectious diseases at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. That type of fat is more associated with the production of a hormone that could be contributing to more severe illness, she said.

Scientists are also exploring whether there’s something specific about the coronavirus itself that makes the obese more susceptible to getting very sick.

For example, the virus infects cells by attaching to receptors on the surface of certain cells. That receptor is abundant on fat cells and scientists are studying whether that makes them “a good nest for the virus,” said Dr. Francois Pattou at the University of Lille in France, who has co-authored research on the link between obesity and severe COVID-19 illness.

Complications in care can arise once hospitalized, too. To help with breathing, for example, doctors have been putting patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on their stomachs. But that can be difficult for the obese, making it more likely they’re put on ventilators.

“They need a machine to help just do the work,” said Dr. David Kass of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University, who has co-authored a study on obesity and severe COVID-19 illness.

Yet another concern: A COVID-19 vaccine may not be as effective for the obese, as seems to be the case with the flu and other vaccines.

Why that might be isn't known, but one possibility is that obesity impairs an aspect of the immune system that needs to be activated for vaccines to work, said Dr. Nancie MacIver, who researches how weight affects the immune system at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. And she said whatever factors are at play would likely be applicable to a COVID-19 vaccine, but added that it is still important to get it.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Health
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump supporters rally near Portland and at Oregon's Capitol
Pro-Trump supporters and counter-protesters have clashed in Oregon’s Capitol city
12:24PM ( 8 minutes ago )
California fires bring more chopper rescues, power shutoffs
Helicopters are rescuing more people from the California wildfires as flames chew through bone-dry terrain after a scorching Labor Day weekend
12:21PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Census Bureau stops layoffs for door knockers after order
Two days after a federal judge ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to stop temporarily winding down operations for the 2020 census, the statistical agency says it's refraining from laying off some census takers and it's restoring some quality-control steps
10:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
As EU talks resume, UK says it could break international law
The U.K. has indicated that it is prepared to break an international agreement as post-Brexit trade discussions with the European Union resumed on an increasingly acrimonious tone
12:02PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Young adults blamed as UK sees sharp spike in virus cases
The British government is facing pressure to act fast to keep a lid on coronavirus infections after a sharp spike in new cases across the U.K. stoked concerns about the pandemic’s prospective path during the fall and winter
12:00PM ( 32 minutes ago )
Andrew Lloyd Webber warns arts 'at point of no return'
“The Phantom of the Opera” composer Andrew Lloyd Webber has told British lawmakers that the arts are “at the point of no return,” and urged the government to set a date for theaters to be allowed to reopen
11:45AM ( 47 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Technology stocks keep stumbling; Nasdaq down 8% in 3 days
Big tech stocks are continuing their Icarus-like flight path, and more sharp declines for them are dragging Wall Street toward a third straight loss on Tuesday
11:07AM ( 1 hour ago )
Rights group: Myanmar army deserters confirmed atrocities
A human rights group says two soldiers who deserted from Myanmar’s army have testified on video that they were instructed by commanding officers to “shoot all that you see and that you hear” in villages where minority Rohingya lived
10:31AM ( 2 hours ago )
Tech sell-off resumes; Nasdaq down more than 8% in 3 days
Big technology stocks are opening sharply lower again on Wall Street, continuing a pullback that began last Thursday and Friday
10:15AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Fearing virus, parents in Spain rise against back to school
The highly anticipated return to classrooms in Spain is becoming a nightmare for many families who face being charged with absenteeism if they don't send their children to schools because they fear coronavirus contagion
2:44AM ( 9 hours ago )
Naked with 'spit hoods' on, protesters decry Prude's death
Protesters demonstrated outside Rochester’s police headquarters naked except for “spit hoods” in reference to the killing of Daniel Prude
2:22AM ( 10 hours ago )
China says Indian forces crossed border, fired warning shots
China says Indian forces crossed into territory it holds along their disputed border and fired warning shots at a Chinese patrol in a move it called a “serious military provocation."
12:44AM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online National News
Trump supporters rally near Portland and at Oregon's Capitol
Pro-Trump supporters and counter-protesters have clashed in Oregon’s Capitol city
12:24PM ( 8 minutes ago )
California fires bring more chopper rescues, power shutoffs
Helicopters are rescuing more people from the California wildfires as flames chew through bone-dry terrain after a scorching Labor Day weekend
12:21PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Census Bureau stops layoffs for door knockers after order
Two days after a federal judge ordered the U.S. Census Bureau to stop temporarily winding down operations for the 2020 census, the statistical agency says it's refraining from laying off some census takers and it's restoring some quality-control steps
10:56AM ( 1 hour ago )
As California burns, the winds arrive and the lights go out
California's largest utility has shut off power to 172,000 customers to prevent its power lines and other equipment from sparking wildfires
10:33AM ( 1 hour ago )
Some gardeners in a pickle over scarce canning supplies
It’s the time of year when gardeners are turning their ripe tomatoes into sauces and salsas and cucumbers into pickles but a boom in gardening and preparing food at home during the coronavirus pandemic has led to a scarcity of certain supplies with which to preserve them
8:04AM ( 4 hours ago )