How Losing Weight Might Be A Safeguard Against COVID-19

If eating healthier, getting more exercise, and losing some weight are at the top of your list of New Year's resolutions, the results might come with a huge added benefit: significant protection against COVID-19.

Studies have shown a connection between increased body mass index (BMI) and more severe outcomes of COVID-19 infection, including an increased risk of hospitalization, time spent in ICU, and even death (via The Lancet). Countries with a lower percentage of people who have overweight or obesity have much lower death rates than countries that have a large number of citizens who have overweight. For example, Vietnam, where 18.3% of the people have overweight, has the lowest COVID-19 mortality rate at only 0.04 deaths per 100,000 people, according to CNN. In the United States, 73.6% of the adult population have overweight or obesity, according to the CDC. The U.S. also has one of the world's highest COVID-19 mortality rates at 152.49 deaths per 100,000 people.

Any amount of weight loss can have a positive impact on health

Recent studies have shown that when it comes to COVID-19, having obesity increases a person's chances of infection by 46%, being hospitalized by a whopping 113%, landing in the ICU by 74%, and death by 48% (via CNN).

While the risk goes up with every point increase in BMI, there is also a silver lining — it, predictably, also goes down with each reduction. Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist with Cleveland Clinic, told CNN, "As far as we can tell, if you lose weight, then your risk of serious Covid and Covid morbidity and mortality goes way down."

If just the thought of losing weight is overwhelming, rest assured that taking even just the first few steps can have a positive impact on health. Barry Popkin, a distinguished professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, noted that if a person has overweight or obesity, "any weight loss is a positive at nearly any weight level. Just marginal weight gain can impact us health-wise."