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Research undertaken by researchers at the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH) has been heavily cited in a new government document on obesity and COVID-19.

The report provides evidence-based insights on the relationship between excess weight and COVID-19 brought together from UK and international studies published during the pandemic.

The prevalence and disease burden resulting from excess weight is a major international public health concern. Almost two-thirds of adults in England are living with excess weight for their height. Living with excess weight is a risk factor for a range of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, many cancers, liver and respiratory disease. Obesity is also associated with reduced life expectancy and a lower quality of life.

Evidence on the links between weight status and COVID-19 outcomes for the report have been primarily drawn from three sources: retrospective cohort studies, clinical audits of patients with COVID-19 in hospital and routine primary care records with data linkage to outcomes.

The evidence suggests excess weight is associated with an increased risk of the following for COVID-19: a positive test, hospitalisation, advanced levels of treatment (including mechanical ventilation or admission to intensive or critical care) and death. There is also some evidence to suggest that disparities in excess weight may explain some of the observed differences in outcomes linked to COVID-19 for older adults and some BAME groups.

Professor Mark Hamer, Chair of Sport and Exercise Medicine at the ISEH who’s paper Ethnic disparities in hospitalisation for COVID-19 in England: The role of socio-economic factors, mental health, and inflammatory and pro-inflammatory factors in a community-based cohort study published in Science Direct is referenced in the report said: “It is great to see our research influencing government policy and decision making and having an impact during the current health crisis.”

Further work from Professor Hamer’s group, also cited, suggested physical activity may play an important role in reducing risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation.

Read the Public Health England report