OVERWEIGHT Brits could be ten times more likely to die of coronavirus, a top doctor has warned.
Dr Aseem Malhotra, a leading NHS consultant cardiologist, said that those with problems related to obesity are developing a more severe form of Covid-19.
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Referencing recent analysis by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, he warned of a worrying "tenfold increased risk of mortality death rates" in people who have conditions associated with obesity.
Dr Malhotra said that these include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
He explained that obesity is defined as a having a body mass index over 30 – but warned that 25 per cent of Brits fall into this category.
Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain today, he said: "This is a real problem because it’s not being addressed and it’s not being tackled head-on.
"The reason for this are twofold – one is excess body fat seems to have an adverse effect when it comes to viral illnesses.
"We know that with the flu you're more likely to get severe illness if you’re overweight.
"But with Covid-19 it also seems to drive an excessive immune response called the ARDS – acute respiratory distress syndrome – that unfortunately causes many people to die."
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He continued: "This goes well beyond obesity because what’s underlying this is something known as the metabolic syndrome.
"To put this in perspective, only one in eight people in the US – and our figures are likely similar in the UK because more than 60 per cent of our population is overweight or obese – are actually metabolically healthy.
"When you look at the roots of all of this, even pre Covid-19, it’s established that even poor diet now is responsible for 11 million deaths per year.
"Poor diet also causes more disease and death than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined."
Dr Malhotra also went onto explain that this may be why Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a more severe form of Covid-19 when he fell ill earlier this month.
"Now it’s an observation but it does fit with the evidence that Boris, unfortunately, is significantly overweight," he said.
"People with obesity also seem to spread the virus for much longer periods of time and clearly get sicker."
He also pointed out that other "slimmer" members of the Cabinet, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, were not as badly affected by the virus when they became ill.
But Dr Hilary Jones, a GP who also appeared on the show, countered that Mr Johnson's weight is "pretty average for the rest of population".
He said: "The rest of the population, if you take into account overweight people as well as obese people, you’re talking about 68 per cent of the population.
"A figure has been bandied about that 75 per cent of people with coronavirus in intensive care are overweight or obese but then 68 per cent of the population are overweight or obese.
"There does seem to be a relationship between obesity and severe consequences of coronavirus but we’ve known for a long time that obesity causes all sorts of medical complications."
Experts from New York University warned earlier this month that age and weight are the biggest risk factors for severe coronavirus.
Researchers analysing data on Covid-19 patients that ended up in hospital or needed intensive care found that cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, in particular, were key contributors.
In a separate study, researchers at NYU Langone Health found that being obese put patients at higher risk of hospitalisation due to complications from Covid-19.
They found that this was particularly the case for patients under the age of 60.
France's top doctor has also warned that overweight people are at higher risk of dying from coronavirus – adding that the US is particularly vulnerable.
Prof Jean-François Delfraissy, who advises the nation's government on the epidemic, said he was concerned for Americans because around 42 per cent of the adult population is severely overweight.
In a radio interview, Prof Delfraissy said: "This virus is terrible. It can hit young people, in particular obese young people. Those who are overweight really need to be careful.
"That is why we're worried about our friends in America, where the problem of obesity is well-known and where they will probably have the most problems because of obesity."
The most recent NHS figures show that nearly 29 per cent of adults in England are obese and a further 35 per cent are overweight.
While in the US, 42.4 per cent of adults and 1.85 per cent of children are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity has previously been cited as a possible explanation for higher than average per-capita Covid-19 death rates in the US city of New Orleans and in Mexico.
It's also a known risk factor for other chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and certain cancers.
Previous studies have shown overweight people to be at higher risk of needing hospital treatment for flu – a similar viral infection.
One study that looked at the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, found that obese people were twice as likely to be hospitalised compared to the rest of the population.
A more recent piece of research, from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, showed that obese adults who become infected with the flu also remain contagious longer.
It puts them at higher risk of passing the virus onto others.
Scientists say they are unclear why obese people are more infectious but suggested that it could be down to the body's immune response and chronic inflammation.
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