LONDON: A new study has found that obesity increases the risk of death by COVID-19 by 48 percent, and may make vaccines against the disease less effective.
The study reveals that risks for obese people, those with a Body Mass Index over 30, are even greater than initially thought.
Carried out by the US-based University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in collaboration with Saudi Health Council and World Bank, the study found that not only is the risk of death 48 percent higher for the obese, but their chance of ending up in hospital is 113 percent higher, and the likelihood of being admitted to intensive care is 74 percent higher.
The study’s authors said any coronavirus vaccine may not be as effective for obese and overweight people, as was shown by the flu and SARS vaccines.
Barry Popkin, who led the study, described the findings as “scary,” telling The Guardian newspaper: “That’s a pretty big effect, for me.”
With some of the highest obesity rates in the world, the study’s findings are of particular concern for Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states as they grapple with their coronavirus outbreaks.
Saudi Arabia has an obesity rate of 35.4 percent, but Kuwait is the most obese country in the Middle East, with a rate of 37.9 percent.
Combined overweight and obesity rates in GCC countries are estimated to be as high as 86 percent among women and 77 percent among men.
The report’s findings, combined with the high obesity rates in the GCC region, add new impetus to a number of new government initiatives aimed at curbing obesity rates and encouraging healthy lifestyles.
The Saudi Sports for All Federation has been leading a number of campaigns to promote a healthy lifestyle in the Kingdom and to encourage everybody to keep active.
In March, the Kingdom launched the “Your Home, Your Gym” campaign, aimed at encouraging people to embrace a healthy lifestyle while under lockdown.
And the KSA Women’s Fitness Festival brought together the Kingdom’s and the region’s best female athletes, nutritionists and lifestyle coaches to encourage Saudi women to live a healthier lifestyle.