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Study shows overweight people twice as likely to survive when hospitalised for infectious disease

The study into the so-called “obesity paradox” looked into the health over 35,000 patients in Denmark.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

PEOPLE WHO ARE obese or overweight who are admitted to hospital for treatment for any infectious disease are twice as likely to survive than people of normal weight, a new study has shown.

The study into the so-called “obesity paradox” looked into the health over 35,000 patients in Denmark.

The team identified 35,406 people with a acute medical or surgical inpatient admission to hospitals in the central Denmark region.

Scientists examined the risk of death within 90 days after the patients were discharged in association with a number of factors, including underweight, overweight and obesity, when compared with normal weight as a reference point.

The team adjusted the results to take into account certain factors, and examined the influence of recent weight change, comorbidities, cancer, and tobacco smoking on the association between BMI and mortality.

The results of the study found that patients who were underweight were 2.2 times as likely to die following infection when compared with people of normal weight.

No increase in the likelihood of death was found among patients who were found to be stably underweight – meaning that they didn’t have recent weight loss which could be associated with other health problems.

In contrast to underweight, patients who were overweight were 40% less likely to die following infectious disease than people of normal weight, while people who were obese were 50% less likely to die.

As well as this, among the patients who were obese, the study showed that the presence or absence of recent weight changes, comorbidities, cancer, or smoking had little effect on the association with decreased mortality.

“Overweight and obesity were associated with substantially reduced 90 day mortality following incident hospital admission for infection,” the authors of the study concluded.

An association between underweight and increased mortality was confined to patients with recent weight loss, suggesting confounding by other hidden disease.

The study was presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity in Vienna, Austria.

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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