From the Journals

‘The story unfolding is worrisome’ for diabetes and COVID-19


More on obesity and COVID-19, this time from China

Because it has become increasingly clear that obesity is a risk factor for severe COVID-19, new data from China – where this was less apparent initially – support observations in Europe and the United States.

An article by Qingxian Cai, PhD, of Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, and colleagues looks at this. They found that, among 383 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the 41 patients with obesity (defined as a body mass index ≥ 28 kg/m2) were significantly more likely to progress to severe disease compared with the 203 patients classified as having normal weight (BMI, 18.5-23.9), with an odds ratio of 3.4.

A similar finding comes from Feng Gao, MD, PhD, of the First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou (China) Medical University and colleagues, who studied 75 patients hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 and obesity (defined as a BMI > 25 in this Asian population) to 75 patients without obesity matched by age and sex. After adjustment for clinical characteristics including the presence of diabetes, those with obesity had a threefold greater risk of progression to severe or critical COVID-19 status, with a nearly linear relationship.

Emerging from the crisis: Protect the vulnerable, increase knowledge base

As the research community emerges from the crisis, “there should be renewed efforts for multidisciplinary research ... aimed at greatly increasing the knowledge base to understand how ... the current COVID-19 threat” affects “both healthy people and people with chronic diseases and conditions,” Dr. Cefalu and colleagues concluded in their commentary.

Dr. Riddle and coauthors agreed: “We will enter a longer interval in which we must continue to support the most vulnerable populations – especially older people, those with diabetes or obesity, and those who lack the resources to limit day-to-day exposure to infection. We hope a growing sense of community will help in this task.”

Dr. Riddle has reported receiving research grant support through Oregon Health & Science University from AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, and Novo Nordisk, and honoraria for consulting from Adocia, AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Novo Nordisk, Sanofi, and Theracos. Dr. Cefalu has reported no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article originally appeared on


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