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Experts say extra pounds gained in quarantine may land you in hospital

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Those pounds you packed on during quarantine? Drop ’em before another wave of COVID-19 hits.

That’s the strong message coming from medical experts.

Being obese has always been linked with the infection, but new studies show just how big a role weight plays. Now, doctors are warning that those considered only overweight, not obese, are at also at much higher risk of ending up in the hospital, the intensive care unit or dead.

“It’s a very real thing that we’re seeing and talking about,” the University of Vermont’s Dr. Anne Dixon said of weight as an independent risk factor.

An analysis of roughly 400,000 patients worldwide found that obese people were 113% more likely to be hospitalized, 74% more likely to be admitted to the ICU, and 48% more likely to die.

Two more studies separated out the overweight. Researchers with Genentech, a biotech company, discovered that 29% of 17,000 patients hospitalized were overweight. Another 48% were obese. And a review of 334,000 people in England determined the rate of hospitalization began to rise for those with a Body Mass Index of 25 to 30 — the overweight, not obese, category.

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One reason the United States has had so many more confirmed cases than other countries, Dixon surmises, is because 40% of adult Americans are obese and another 32% are overweight.

Mauro S. Maietta, district fitness manager and trainer at Crunch in NYC.
Helayne Seidman

Dixon explains why carrying extra weight is so bad: the immune system is compromised, making it harder to fight the infection; the lungs are compressed, making it much harder for doctors to ventilate someone who’s sick; and the doses of medication for someone heavy are different than for someone lean and something that doctors don’t understand all that well.

Personal trainers like Mauro Maietta, who oversees fitness for Crunch gyms on the East Coast, are spreading the word.

“One of the things I’ve heard a lot is the quarantine 15 — almost like the freshman 15,”  he said, “Some have gained 10 to 15 pounds. Others, 20 to 25 pounds.”

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