Obese hospital patients are more likely to survive an infectious disease than people of normal weight, according to research that pointed Friday to seemingly paradoxical benefits of a condition loaded with health risks.
Presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, a study of more than 18,000 sick people in Denmark showed that the overweight and obese were twice as likely to survive hospitalisation for an infectious disease.
Overweight patients, researchers said, “were 40 percent less likely to die, and those who were obese 50 percent less likely to die, than those of normal weight.” The team had looked at hospital admissions from 2011 to 2015 for their study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Earlier this week, other researchers at the conference projected that a quarter of the global population will be obese by 2045, and warned of a mounting medical bill.
Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers, but has been suggested to be protective for specific conditions — the so-called “obesity paradox”.
Another paper presented at the conference on Friday, said obese and overweight people hospitalised with pneumonia were 20-30 percent less likely to die than patients of normal weight.
This study looked at records for almost 1.7 million pneumonia cases treated at over 1,000 United States hospitals in 2013 and 2014. “Compared with normal weight patients without use of a ventilator (less serious cases), overweight patients were 23 percent more likely to survive and obese patients 29 percent more likely to survive,” said a statement.
Among people requiring a ventilator, the comparative numbers were 21 percent and 30 percent. A person with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more is considered overweight, and 30 or higher obese. A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9.
A third congress paper, based on data from 3.7 million admissions for sepsis at 1,000 American hospitals, also found that overweight and obese patients were less likely to die than people of normal weight.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition in which the body is attacked by its own immune system. Further evidence of an apparent survival benefit came from a fourth study, from the Netherlands, which showed that seriously ill obese patients have lower rates of muscle wasting in hospital.