Researchers have identified genetic evidence to support a causal link between smoking and obesity and an increased risk of severe Covid-19 and sepsis.
The study, led by an international team of scientists from the UK, Norway and the USA, found that both smoking and having a higher body mass index (BMI, a measure of obesity) can increase the risk of severe outcomes with Covid-19.
Published this month in the journal Circulation, the survey team used a statistical technique called Mendelian Randomization to uncover the causal link.
According to the researchers, the findings highlight how measures such as quitting smoking and losing weight can help reduce the risk of severe health outcomes.
Campaigns for losing excess weight must remain central to public health strategies
Dr Dipender Gill, from Imperial’s School of Public Health and a clinician at St George’s Hospital in London, said, “While it’s already known that smoking and obesity increase the risk of many serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer, our findings highlight that the implications of smoking and obesity are exacerbated in the current Covid-19 pandemic.”
According to the researchers, there are various mechanisms by which smoking and obesity may elevate the risk of suffering from severe Covid-19 and sepsis, including through disrupting the regulation of inflammation and the immune response.
“Our work supports that something can be done to reduce risk of severe Covid-19, and in particular that losing excess weight and stopping smoking can make a difference,” added Dr Gill.
“Now, more than ever, it’s essential that campaigns highlighting the benefits of losing excess weight and stopping smoking remain central to public health strategies.”