Why has COVID-19 been so devastating to Americans? Unfortunately, we may be able to answer the question simply by looking in the mirror.

The number of people with severe illnesses from COVID-19 in the United States has appeared higher than in other countries on a per capita basis. The media has attributed this to failure of public health measures to control the viral infection. But there may be another reason why Americans have been particularly impacted by COVID-19. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently updated its Coronavirus guidelines. It added a number of different symptoms that potentially could be the result of Coronavirus infection. It also clarified the confusing information about contact testing and airborne transmission of the virus. However, one change in particular is potentially insightful as to why so many Americans have had difficulty with this infection. 

While previously obesity was listed as a high-risk preexisting condition for those who were infected with SARS-CoV-2, the CDC now says that anyone who’s simply overweight is also at risk for developing Coronavirus complications. 

Bloomberg reported that this change was made last week without formal announcement. The change indicates that the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight risk facing a more severe version of COVID-19.

According to the CDC’s data about the weight of Americans in 2020, 40% of adults are obese and another 32% are overweight

The CDC believes that the greater the weight, the higher the risk of COVID-19 illness that requires hospitalization. The risk of death also goes up with a higher body mass index (BMI). The BMI calculates the body mass from the weight and height of a person to estimate fat percentage. Overweight people have a BMI of 25 to 30 kg/square meter. Individuals with values over 30 are considered obese, with a BMI over 40 as severely obese.

The CDC now considers anyone with a BMI over 25 as at risk. You can calculate your own BMI at this NIH website. Remember, this is a personal risk factor that everyone can control!

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

3 thoughts on “Why has COVID-19 been so devastating to Americans? Unfortunately, we may be able to answer the question simply by looking in the mirror.

  1. I will start of saying I love your blog! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and this information. I talked to my daughter who has an MPH RD from U of Michigan (Go Blue!) She told me BMI was derived by a mathematician in the 1930’s. He used European white men as his model to create the formula. That fact alone should make people question its validity. For example, my son is 6’3″ and weighs 220. His BMI is 27.5 which states he is overweight and just shy of the 30 for obesity. My son is tall, strong, and in great shape. He is not even close to being overweight. Women are using the same BMI scale as men. How can that be? We have totally different body types. There are some great athletes that would be thrown into the obese category because of the BMI formula. How does BMI know the difference between muscle, bone, and fat? It doesn’t. The CDC should not be scaring people into using an old, outdated formula to determine their risk of hospitalization from covid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment and agree that the BMI is an imperfect measure. People who are endomorphs, like your son, get listed as heavier. Most of the more accurate measures of body fat involve water tanks, etc. which are impossible to do for most people.

      However, look at BMI as a relative marker of obesity. Even if it overstates numbers by 5 or 8%, look at the trends I quote since 1990! Most folks are NOT like your son, and no one in the US was really undernourished in 1990. So the massive increases since then are unnecessary pounds.


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