Speaking on ITV Good Morning Britain on Friday, Dr Hilary Jones explained obesity creates inflammation in the body that is highly targeted by coronavirus, making overweight people more likely to suffer from long term consequences of the deadly disease. He said: “People who are overweight or obese are more likely to be admitted to hospital and suffer more severe consequences of the coronavirus.
“The mortality rate is higher as well, they’re more likely to have diabetes and heart disease.
“So obesity, we’ve known for years, has these effects on the body.
“But it causes an inflammation within the body as well as the diabetes and the heart disease which is more tangible, you can see it and feel it and measure it.
“But the inflammation in the body is something that is less measurable.
“But it’s the inflammation which the coronavirus particularly targets and that’s why our Prime Minister is now saying we need to regard obesity much more seriously in this country and have much more effective measures in helping the population.”
It comes as more than a quarter of NHS patients who died in hospitals in England after contracting coronavirus had diabetes, figures showed on Thursday.
Of the 22,332 patients who have died in England’s hospitals since March 31, when pre-existing conditions began to be recorded, some 5,873 (26 percent) had diabetes.
Published on Thursday, it is the first time NHS England has included a breakdown of deaths by pre-existing conditions in its statistics.
Charity Diabetes UK said the figures show an “urgent” need for more information to ensure the safety of those with diabetes as lockdown measures are eased.
While official advice recognises people with diabetes can be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus, those with the disease were not included in a group told to “shield” themselves by staying at home.
Data published by NHS England does not specify whether those who died had type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
The health service said the accuracy of the data is reliant on the availability and transfer of information by healthcare providers, and patients may have had more than one pre-existing condition.
Bridget Turner, director of policy at Diabetes UK, said: “The fact that more than a quarter of people who have died with Covid-19 have diabetes underlines the urgent need to ensure better protection and extra support is available to those in the clinically vulnerable groups.
“We also need urgent action from government to understand the detail behind this figure, including diabetes type, age, ethnicity, medical history and comorbidities of those who have sadly died, so that we can know how to keep all people with diabetes safe.
“Government must ensure urgently that employers take all the necessary measures to keep employees with diabetes safe, if they are expected to attend work outside the home as restrictions are eased.”
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Further data analysis on diabetes – carried out based on type, ethnicity, control and weight – is expected to be published shortly.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “We have known since the swine flu pandemic of 2009 that viral diseases prey on the obese and, from Covid-19 statistics, that if you are obese you have double the risk of needing intensive care treatment.
“Obesity is a major cause of type 2 diabetes.”
Professor Partha Kar, national speciality adviser for diabetes for NHS England, said: “It is clear that people with diabetes are more at risk of dying from Covid-19 and more detailed analysis is currently under way to understand the link between the two, although initial findings indicate that the threat in people under 40 continues to be very low.
“The NHS has put extra measures in place so that people living with diabetes can manage their condition better during the pandemic, including a range of online services, video consultations with your local clinical team and a dedicated helpline for those who need advice.”