Obese people found to be at increased risk of COVID-19

A new study led by researchers at Queen Mary University of London uses a novel approach to investigate the effects of cardiovascular risk factors on the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Several observational studies have reported the link between cardiovascular risk factors (such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol) and COVID-19 severity. However, these studies could not ascertain the cause and effect relationship due to the observational design.

The new study, published in the science journal Frontiers in Genetics, used a novel approach called ‘Mendelian Randomisation’, which leveraged on the individual genetic information, to investigate the effects of cardiovascular risk factors on the risk of COVID-19 infection.

Lead author Dr. Nay Aung from Queen Mary University of London said: “Our results show that individuals with high body mass index (BMI), a marker of obesity, and high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol) are at an increased risk of getting COVID-19. Other cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure and diabetes) do not appear to elevate the COVID-19 risk.

“Our findings support the use of BMI and LDL cholesterol as important metrics alongside other known characteristics (such as age and ethnicity) in the risk assessment of vulnerability to COVID-19 infection.”

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