March 8 (UPI) -- Obese adults have a more than 60% higher risk for death from COVID-19 compared to those who have a healthy body weight, according to figures released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Severely overweight adults are also 33% more likely to be hospitalized with serious illness from the disease compared to those who maintain a healthy weight, the data showed.
"The findings in this report are similar to those from previous studies that indicate an increased risk for severe COVID-19-associated illness among persons with excess weight," the CDC researchers wrote.
"The finding that risk for severe COVID-19-associated illness increases with higher [weight] suggests that progressively intensive management of COVID-19 might be needed for patients with more severe obesity," they said.
Obesity, or being severely overweight, has been mentioned as a possible risk factor for serious illness from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
This may be because people who are severely overweight already have higher levels of inflammation in the bodies, and the coronavirus is known to cause severe inflammation throughout the body, particularly in the lungs and heart, the CDC said.
More than 40% of adults in the United States meet the criteria for obesity, defined as a body mass index, or BMI, above 30, the agency estimates.
BMI is calculated by taking a person's weight in kilograms and dividing it by their height in meters.
The findings of this analysis are based on data from nearly 150,000 people with confirmed COVID-19 treated at 238 hospitals nationally.
Twenty-eight percent of the patients were overweight at the time of their COVID-19 diagnosis, and more than half - 51% - were obese.
Mildly obese adults, or those with BMIs between 30 and 34, had a 7% increased likelihood for hospitalization and an 8% higher risk for death due to the coronavirus, compared to those with a healthy weight.
However, severely obese adults, or those with BMIs above 45, had 33% increased likelihood of hospitalization and a 61% higher risk for death from the virus, compared to those who had a healthy weight.
"These findings highlight clinical and public health implications of higher BMIs, including the need for intensive management of COVID-19-associated illness, continued vaccine prioritization and masking, and policies to support healthy behaviors," the CDC researchers wrote.
"Continued strategies are needed to ensure community access to nutrition and physical activity opportunities that promote and support a healthy BMI," they said.