The US may have suffered the highest coronavirus death toll in the world because almost 70 per cent of its adult population are overweight, according to a major report.
Research by the World Obesity Federation found that coronavirus deaths have been 10 times higher in countries where over half of adults are overweight, and they have accounted for a staggering 90 per cent of global deaths.
So far 518,500 Americans have died from the virus, which is the highest death toll of any nation and double the number of victims in second worst-hit Brazil. The US has the eighth worst Covid death rate globally when the size of its population is factored in, with 152.5 victims per 100,000 people.
It is also home to the highest percentage of fat people, according to the WOF, with 67.9 per cent of adults having a body mass index (BMI) above 25. A healthy range is between 18 and 24 and people with a BMI of over 30 are considered obese.
Thousands of lives could have been saved if the population was slimmer, experts said, and the effects of lockdown would not have been as drastic if people were not as fat and had a lower risk of ending up in hospital.
The report, which has analysed obesity rates in countries around the world as well as coronavirus deaths, also says that the death rate is 10 times higher in countries where 50 per cent or more of the population is overweight.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the report, which found that 2.2 million of the 2.5 million global deaths were in countries with high levels of obesity, should act as a ‘wake-up call’ for governments to tackle their obesity problems.
A study by the World Obesity Federation found that the vast majority of Covid-19 deaths have happened in countries where more than half the population is overweight
The World Obesity Federation report claims that around nine in 10 Covid-19 deaths have occurred in countries with high obesity rates.
This includes the UK which has the third-highest Covid death rate in the world and the fourth-highest obesity rate.
In countries where less than half the population is overweight, the risk of death from Covid is a tenth of that in countries above this level.
No country where less than 40 per cent of the population is overweight has Covid-19 death rates above 10 per 100,000, the report shows.
The country with the lowest Covid death rate was Vietnam, which has one of the lowest levels of excess weight in its population – while Japan and Singapore were also singled out for their low levels of obesity and deaths from Covid-19.
In 2008, Japan introduced the ‘Metabo law’ which requires everyone between the ages of 40 and 74 to get annual measurements of their waist circumference.
Employers of those with waistlines above approved limits are required to provide weight loss classes.
Commenting on the report, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘This report must act as a wake-up call to governments globally.
‘The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from Covid-19 is clear and compelling.
‘Investment in public health and coordinated, international action to tackle the root causes of obesity is one of the best ways for countries to build resilience in health systems post-pandemic. We urge all countries to seize this moment.’
Author of the report Dr Tim Lobstein, senior policy adviser to the World Obesity Federation and visiting professor at the University of Sydney, said: ‘We now know that an overweight population is the next pandemic waiting to happen.
‘Look at countries like Japan and South Korea where they have very low levels of Covid-19 deaths as well as very low levels of adult obesity.
‘They have prioritised public health across a range of measures, including population weight, and it has paid off in the pandemic.
‘Governments have been negligent and ignored the economic value of a healthy population at their peril.
‘For the last decade they have failed to tackle obesity, despite setting themselves targets at United Nations meetings.
‘Covid-19 is only the latest infection exacerbated by weight issues, but the warning signs were there. We have seen it in the past with Mers, H1N1 and other respiratory diseases.’
Johanna Ralston, chief executive of the World Obesity Federation, said: ‘The failure to address the root causes of obesity over many decades is clearly responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.’