The impact of obesity on severe disease and mortality in people with SARS-CoV-2: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Samuel Seidu*, Clare Gillies, Francesco Zaccardi, Setor K Kunutsor, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Thomas Yates, Awadhesh Kumar Singh, Melanie Davies, Kamlesh Khunti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)
87 Downloads (Pure)


Background Obesity accompanied by excess ectopic fat storage has been postulated as a risk factor for severe disease in people with SARS-CoV-2 through the stimulation of inflammation, functional immunologic deficit and a pro-thrombotic disseminated intravascular coagulation with associated high rates of venous thromboembolism. Methods Observational studies in COVID-19 patients reporting data on raised body mass index at admission and associated clinical outcomes were identified from MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science and the Cochrane Library up to May 16, 2020. Mean differences and relative risks (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were aggregated using random-effects models. Results Eight retrospective cohort studies and one cohort prospective cohort study with data on of 4,920 patients with COVID-19 were eligible. Comparing BMI ≥25 vs. <25 kg/m2, the RRs (95% CIs) of severe illness and mortality were 2.35 (1.43-3.86) and 3.52 (1.32-9.42), respectively. In a pooled analysis of three studies, the RR (95% CI) of severe illness comparing BMI >35 vs. <25 kg/m2 was 7.04 (2.72-18.20). High levels of statistical heterogeneity were partly explained by age; BMI ≥25 kg/m2 was associated with an increased risk of severe illness in older age groups (≥ 60 years), whereas the association was weaker in younger age groups (< 60 years). Conclusions Excess adiposity is a risk factor for severe disease and mortality in people with SARS-CoV-2 infection. This was particularly pronounced in people 60 and older. The increased risk of worse outcomes from SARS-CoV-2 infection in people with excess adiposity should be taken into account when considering individual and population risks and when deciding on which groups to target for public health messaging on prevention and detection measures.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere00176
Number of pages10
JournalEndocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism
Early online date14 Aug 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Aug 2020

Structured keywords

  • Covid19


  • mortality
  • obesity
  • severe disease
  • SARS‐CoV‐2


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