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How does obesity affect Covid-19?

Posted 9 November 2020 in Weight Loss

Do you know your BMI?We are still very much in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more restrictions coming into effect across the country to try to stem the spread of the virus.

Many of us are doing what we can to stay safe – reducing social contacts, wearing masks when shopping and working from home, if possible - but what else can we do to minimise our risk?

While most people who develop Covid-19 will be either asymptomatic (no symptoms) or have a mild form of the disease, some will go on to develop serious symptoms and will need hospital treatment.

While there remain many unknowns about coronavirus, we know there are myriad factors that affect an individual’s risk1. These include age, comorbidities (having other illnesses, such as heart disease, some cancers, and respiratory conditions), and being overweight or obese.

Although there is no evidence to suggest that being overweight or obese increases the risk of actually catching the virus, scientists know that having too much body fat increases the risk of developing a more severe type of Covid-192.

In fact, a review of 75 international studies showed that obesity is a significant risk factor for illness and death due to Covid-193: compared to those who are a “normal” weight or even overweight, people who were obese were twice as likely to need hospital treatment.

Once in hospital, obese patients were 75% more likely to have to need intensive care treatment. They were also nearly 50% more likely to die from the virus.

When you consider that almost two-thirds of adults in England are classed as being overweight or obese4 – when measured as Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25 – these are sobering statistics.

It’s important to understand that the risks vary from person to person and it doesn’t mean that if you are obese and test positive for Covid-19 that you will definitely develop a severe form of the illness. But you might decide that now is a good time to start thinking more about your health and your weight.

Why is obesity a significant risk factor?

Public Health England has estimated that if you have a BMI of 35 to 40, it could increase your risk of dying from Covid-19 by 40%. If you have a BMI over 40 that risk increases by 90%5.

When the body stores excess fat, it is stored in the liver and in the skeletal muscle, as well as in the lungs. It means that the additional fat can affect the respiratory system and the body’s immune response to fighting infection. Research6 has shown that obesity could cause what’s called a “hyperactive immune system response” to Covid-19, which makes it far more difficult for the body to fight the virus.

This overactive immune response can lead to a cytokine storm. Cytokines are small proteins that stop viruses from reproducing, but if the body’s immune response goes into overdrive it releases too many of them. It’s not a complication unique to Covid-19, though; it’s common in other respiratory diseases, too.

Other health problems linked to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and high blood pressure, can also lead to complications if you have Covid-19.

It is why the Government launched its campaign7 in the summer to try to encourage us to manage our weight better.

We know it’s not always easy to lose weight – even when we know it’s the right thing to do. While we understand that it’s about eating less and moving more, there are other issues that could impact on our desire to lose a few pounds, including lifestyle and lack of motivation.

And how many of us have started to shed the pounds, only to put it back on (and sometimes more) when we’ve stopped paying attention to what we put in our mouths?

Helping you to lose weight

If you’ve tried to diet, or you have a medical condition, such as type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or hypothyroidism,  or you’re on a medication that makes it difficult to lose weight, you may need medical intervention to help you lose weight.

Buy Saxenda from Webmed from only £75 Find out more If you are clinically obese, with a BMI of at least 28 with co-morbidities or 30 without, you could be suitable for an effective appetite suppressant that has been clinically proven to assist people wanting to lose weight: Saxenda.

Saxenda is the UK’s only licensed appetite suppressant and it is only available on private prescription.

How does it work?

The body produces glucagon-like-peptide (GLP-1) - a hormone that helps to regulate appetite - and Saxenda, which was originally developed as a therapy for diabetics and approved for use in Europe in 2009, works like GLP-1. It acts on brain receptors, which in turn helps to control your appetite, which can help you to reduce how much you eat.

Used in conjunction with a calorie-controlled diet and an exercise plan, Saxenda can help you lose weight and keep it off.

How do I take it?

Saxenda is a pre-filled pen containing 18mg of liraglutide in a 3ml of solution and you simply inject it just under the skin - usually upper arm, thigh, or stomach once a day. The dose gradually increases from just 0.6mg in the first week up to 3mg by week five; this enables your body to gradually get used to the treatment, helping to minimise any side effects that often occurs with weight-loss products.

You can read more about how Saxenda can help you to lose weight sensibly and how you can get an assessment from our doctors to see if it is right for you.


  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/
  2. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/excess-weight-can-increase-risk-of-serious-illness-and-death-from-covid-19 (accessed October 27 2020)
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/if-you-are-at-higher-risk
  4. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/907966/PHE_insight_Excess_weight_and_COVID-19__FINAL.pdf(page 6)
  5. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2994?ijkey=d98bd364f7235c526a81ab8db02cf7b1485eb639&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha (accessed October 30 2020)
  6. https://academic.oup.com/endo/article/161/11/bqaa154/5900580?searchresult=1 The Collision of Meta-Inflammation and SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Infection. Endocrinology. September 2020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1210/endocr/bqaa154
  7. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-obesity-strategy-unveiled-as-country-urged-to-lose-weight-to-beat-coronavirus-covid-19-and-protect-the-nhs

Written by: Jayne Howarth, October 30th 2020.

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