Facing Risk

CDC Broadens Guidance on Obesity Risk for COVID-19

Early in the pandemic, CDC identified a higher risk for severe symptoms with COVID-19 in people with severe obesity. This week, the agency broadened its guidance to include all individuals with a BMI of 30 or greater. This is the epidemiologic benchmark for obesity – severe or not. What’s more, it’s a benchmark that describes 43 percent of all American adults. So folks, if you think that COVID-19 is somebody else’s problem, think again.

Other Risks

Of course, age is still the most important risk factor for bad outcomes with COVID-19. In fact, with its revisions this week, CDC reinforced that guidance. It removed thresholds for age-based risks. Now the agency simply states that risk rises with age. Previously, it said that the risk was higher for people 65 and older. It also added guidance on other medical conditions, pregnancy, and children with medical issues.

But for younger people, obesity is one of the more important risk factors. CDC’s Jay Butler explained:

Younger people are in no way completely immune to the effects of SARS-CoV-2 nor are they at zero risk of severe manifestations. And among young people, that risk is elevated in those with underlying illness or health conditions, including things like diabetes or obesity.

Inconvenient Truth

This is an inconvenient truth for people who want to think of themselves as invulnerable. It’s especially inconvenient for dogmatic HAES® advocates, who insist the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate by body weight. Right. Maybe the virus doesn’t discriminate. It just infects people and has a bigger biological effect on people with obesity. This kind of double-talk is what we’ve come to expect from politicians. But people who call themselves health advocates should look in the mirror before they keep dispensing such misinformation.

At this point, we’re learning a lot about this nasty virus. We’re learning a lot more about how it spreads and how to protect yourself and your loved ones. We’ve learned that young people should not think they’re immune from really serious outcomes – even death – as a result of getting this infection. We’re also learning that political agendas to obscure the truth can be deadly for our health.

COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while. Obesity makes it worse. Let’s be smart about this and take care of each other.

Click here for further reporting on CDC’s changes and here for CDC guidance on groups at risk.

Facing Risk, photograph © Jernej Furman / flickr

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June 27, 2020

2 Responses to “CDC Broadens Guidance on Obesity Risk for COVID-19”

  1. June 27, 2020 at 1:23 pm, Angela Golden said:

    Thank you so much for this. I had not seen this and have shared with the AANP Obesity Specialty Practice Group. Of course, all your information is of amazing value this feels very impactful.

  2. June 27, 2020 at 7:41 pm, Chester Draws said:

    We’ve learned that young people should not think they’re immune from really serious outcomes – even death – as a result of getting this infection.

    But for most young people CV-19 is a very long way down the list of dangers that they face in every day life. Yes, it can kill. But riding a motorcycle is greatly more risky, and we don’t go on about that.

    If we went round thinking about all the things that can go wrong, we’d never get out of bed in the morning. And we wouldn’t eat anything but soup, given that far more children will die of choking than of CV19.

    The real risk is that the young and well will infect the old and sick.