Obesity Associated with a Higher Risk of COVID-19 Death Among Ethnic Minorities

A study found a stronger correlation between obesity and COVID-19 deaths in ethnic minorities than in White people. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and the findings were published in journal Nature Communications.

In this analysis, researchers assessed the national Census information, electronic health records and mortality data of more than 12 million English adults over 40 years of age who were alive at the start of the pandemic and who had their BMI recorded in the previous 10 years.

According to the results, there was little difference in risk between ethnic groups in lean individuals at low Body Mass Index (BMI). However, as the researchers noted, obesity level BMI among Black, South Asian and other ethnic groups were associated with an appreciable increasing dying from COVID-19 compared to White counterparts.

Professor Tom Yates, Professor of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Health at the University of Leicester, and lead author of the study, said via a press release: “The increased risks of COVID-19 infection, severe disease and death associated with obesity and ethnicity has been well researched in their own right, but this is the first study to present findings on how the risk of COVID-19 mortality in ethnic minority groups is dependent on BMI, with obesity seeming to magnify the higher risk reported in ethnic minority groups.”

Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Centre for Ethnic Health Research, said: “We are learning more and more about this deadly virus and this study represents another important finding. It highlights the urgent need for more research into the causal relationship between ethnicity and obesity.

“The research gives insights that will allow healthcare professionals and policy makers to put measures in place and create tailored plans to protect people from ethnic minority groups who are overweight or obese and thus try to reduce mortality.”