Professor Naveed Sattar contributes to key PHE COVID-19 obesity paper
Professor Naveed Sattar, the University of Glasgow’s professor of metabolic medicine and an expert in prevention and management of diabetes, obesity and heart disease, was one of the key contributors to Public Health England’s (PHE) recent report on COVID-19 and obesity.
The report, which was based on a number of studies, including several from the University of Glasgow, found that the evidence consistently suggests that people with COVID-19 who are living with overweight or obesity, compared with those of a healthy weight, are at an increased risk of serious COVID-19 complications and death.
The PHE report, published on 24 July 2020, found that excess weight is associated with an increased risk of the following for COVID-19: a positive test, hospitalisation, advanced levels of treatment (including mechanical ventilation or admission to intensive or critical care) and death. These risks seem to increase progressively with increasing BMI above the healthy weight range, even after adjustment for potential confounding factors, including demographic and socio-economic factors.
Professor Sattar, said: “This is indeed a useful report, despite being written in a relatively short timescale. Hopefully, it will provoke a much needed discussion around this sensitive but important topic which is perhaps even more important to the UK given its current poor international ranking on obesity rates. The evidence that excess weight causes worse COVID-19 outcomes is not definitive (all studies have varying limitations), but it is strongly suggestive, as it is clear that higher BMI to COVID-19 associations have been seen across studies from many different countries, in different settings and with different study designs.
“Also, as higher BMI is a cause of conditions that appear to be associated with more adverse outcomes, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, higher blood pressure, lung conditions, it seems reasonable to speculate that by helping more people prevent weight gain, and others to lose some weight (even small amounts sustainably), we may be able to lessen their risks of more severe COVID-19 in the event of subsequent waves.
“Formal trials would be useful to prove this, and whilst these may be difficult, they are not necessarily impossible. Even so, if this report helps bring obesity to the fore and leads to real systemic changes in the food and travel environments so that more people can live healthier lives without much conscious effort, then so much the better, and many future generations will stand to benefit. It should also help improve access to weight management options for people living with obesity.”
First published: 27 July 2020