The vast majority of worldwide COVID-19 deaths have been in countries that have high obesity levels, according to a new study involving scientists, medical professionals, and researchers from over 50 regional and national obesity associations.
Analysis by the World Obesity Federation found that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million global coronavirus deaths, or about 90%, were in countries with high levels of obesity. For the study, researchers examined COVID-19 mortality data from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization's Global Health Observatory.
In nations where at least 50% of adults are overweight, COVID-19 death rates spiked 10 times higher. Tim Lobstein, senior policy adviser to the WOF and the study's author, said the death rates in countries with large obese populations were "dramatic."
"The report, released ahead of world obesity day on Thursday, did not find a single example of a country where less than 40 percent of the population was overweight having high death rates," the Financial Times reported. "On the other hand, no country with high death rates — at least 100 per 100,000 — had less than 50 percent of its population overweight."
The United States has 152.49 coronavirus deaths per 100,000, and 67.9% of adults overweight. The United Kingdom has 184 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000, and 63.7% of adults overweight, according to the WHO. For comparison, Vietnam has the lowest coronavirus death rate in the world at 0.04 deaths per 100,000, and the second-lowest level of overweight people at only 18.3% of the adult population.
Lobstein applauded countries such as Japan and South Korea, who "prioritized public health across a range of measures, including population weight, and it has paid off in the pandemic."
Age has been the biggest predictor of severe outcomes regarding coronavirus infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: "Risk for severe illness with COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at highest risk."
Now the World Obesity Federation proclaims that the results of the research "shows for the first time that overweight populations come a close second" to advanced age. The WOF calls for obese individuals to be prioritized for the coronavirus vaccine like the elderly are currently being prioritized.
"[This] must act as a wake-up call to governments globally," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Financial Times. "The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from COVID-19 is clear and compelling."
"Investment in public health and coordinated, international action to tackle the root causes of obesity is one of the best ways for countries to build resilience in health systems post-pandemic," Ghebreyesus added. "We urge all countries to seize this moment."
It should be noted that early in the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all U.S. governors issued stay-at-home orders that locked down the country, prohibited Americans from exercising at gyms, banned athletic leagues, and prohibited children from utilizing playgrounds.