Want to Up Your Chances of Dying From Swine Flu? Be Obese

By Allison Bond | July 13, 2009 3:47 pm

LargeExperts have long suspected that swine flu is more fatal among obese people, along with children and pregnant women. Now, doctors have linked an increased risk of dying from swine flu to having a body mass index, or BMI, above 40, which indicates morbid obesity. Studies in mice have yielded a similar conclusion. Bloomberg tells us:

It’s the first time that the prominence of obesity has been noticed among severely ill flu sufferers, [director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony] Fauci said in an interview yesterday. “It’s very likely that if we went back retrospectively and looked at people who did poorly during seasonal flu, what would shake out is that obesity would be one of the risks,” he said….

In mouse studies, [swine] flu killed about half of the rodents made obese by a high-fat diet, compared with a mortality rate of about 4 percent in lean animals…. [Scientists are] studying whether obese humans might need stronger doses of vaccine or a different method of delivery.

The correlation between a high BMI and a higher swine flu mortality rate might be due to the way excess weight compresses the lungs. Or it could be complications of obesity, such as insulin resistance and increased inflammation, that makes swine flu more deadly. In any case, it’s just one more reason for us Americans to get up off the couch…while we still can.

Related Content:
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Discoblog: Small Comfort: Cockroaches, Too, Get Fat on an Unbalanced Diet
Discoblog: Why Do Some People Never Get Fat? Scientists May Have the Answer
80Beats: Risk Factors for Severe Swine Flu Include Lung Ailments, Pregnancy, and Obesity

Image: flickr / Mandj98

MORE ABOUT: obesity, swine flu
  • Albert Bakker

    Yes, that’s useful. Scaring the shit out of fatties will get them running from panic. They are going to need that to slim down enough fast enough to have at least a chance to survive the swine flu they don’t of a heart attack in the process. And I’m sure history will point out interesting correlation between obesity and dying in pandemics. All those fat people who kicked the bucket in 1918 for example will finally have their bad eating habits exposed. Also if you are a kid, grow up very fast or die.

  • scott fellows

    Thanks for that Albert….what a great guy, warm, caring, compassionate are just some of the qualities that won’t be associated with your name.

  • Albert Bakker

    Yes, I can only agree with that. But me being a miserable bastard isn’t really the issue here. Maybe you can explain how such announcements are going to be helpful or even just “compassionate?” And exactly how does it help to tell a “morbidly obese” person that he or she has a fifty/ fifty shot at survival when catching swine flu in probably the next few months. I mean what is the point? Are these people now expected to think by themselves it is perhaps not a good idea to be “morbidly obese” after all? Is it going to be their own fault because they are too damn lazy to get off the couch, as the last sentence implies? (I mean sensitivity my ass..)

    Now if they just would try to find out if a heavier person needs more vaccine than a featherweight or not, that ìs of course helpful. Scaring people to death about stuff they are not going to be able to do anything about, especially when considering the timeframe here, is not. Or it could be that I am missing something, like maybe morbidly obese people don’t read this kind of stuff, as long as it isn’t used to wrap food in.

  • http://yahoo.com scott fellows

    It wouldn’t be so bad if more fatties died considering our health care system is hurting because of them. It seems like it’s more work to eat enough to become morbidly obese than it is to just lay off some of the food they eat.

  • Pingback: Fuzzy, Cuddly Swine Flu: The Next Big Holiday Toy? | Discoblog | Discover Magazine()

  • EFS

    I have NEVER met an “overweight” or “obese” human being who ACTIVELY seeks to be obese.


    (A) A person CHOOSES to smoke cigarettes, which not only puts that person at risk, but also those around them and, especially their children, who can suffer severely from second-hand smoke. Don’t tell me it’s not possible; *my* lungs are damaged from breathing in the smoke of two parents who smoked heavily when I was a child. This has been proven by intense pulmonological tests while trying to figure out why I have breathing problems. NICOTINE *IS* ADDICTIVE; there is no doubt of that, but it’s NOT a necessity to live.

    (B) Alcohol is also an acquired habit. Unless one works in a completely dysfunctional family where children are force-fed alcohol (and, yes, that HAS happened), a person also chooses to drink alcohol. Again, while alcohol cab be VERY addictive, drinking in excess is also NOT a necessity for the continuation of life, althoug there are significant arguments that alcoholism *can* be genetic.

    Both cigarettes and alcohol are now thought to be used as a psychological crutch (for a great many) for something lacking in their lives, not to mention dozens of other triggers. Regarding cigarettes, studies have shown that children who grew up in a house with parents who smoked were more likely to do take up the habit themselves. (In my case, I couldn’t stand it, however, all of my siblings smoke.)

    Television and radio no longer allow advertisements for cigarettes and tobacco products because of the addictive and cancer-causing properties. Ads for alcohol are still allowed, but if one pays attension, the viewer *never* sees anyone actually taking a sip of any alcohol product.

    FOOD, like water, on the other hand, IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL FOR THE CONTINUANCE OF LIFE; *ANY* life!

    Yes, people CAN become addicted to food, like cigarettes and alchol, and yes there are also numerous studies that point to genetic tendencies for obesity (anything from a few pounds to morbid obesity). This is likely NOT the case with everyone anymore than it’s the case with EVERY chronic alcoholic or smoker.

    However, the information IS there; and yet most of the public call the genetic link to obesity “an excuse.”.

    Losing weight — and keeping it off — is one of THE most difficult things a person can do, simply because you do NOT have to smoke or drink alcohol to live … however, EVERY HUMAN ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET *MUST* EAT TO SURVIVE!

    Calling large people “fatties,” “lazy,” “stupid” or any other number of myriad, hateful and obscene names will NEVER encourage anyone to lose weight; it only depresses them further.

    I know; I’ve been obese. EVERYONE on both sides of my family, going back at least four generations (gauging by family photos) have all been obese.

    Being “fat” is NOT remotely fun. I have NEVER sat around all day watching Jerry Springer, eating tubs of ice cream and otherwise stuffing my face. I have NEVER been lazy; I’ve worked harder at *every* job I’ve held, quite literally and physically doing the work of three to four people. One of my bosses, several months after I quit (and he was horribly fat prejudiced), called to ask me to PLEASE come back to work for him. He apologized to me for the way he had treated me all those years, admitted he had been wrong about assuming that I was lazy and stupid because of my size, and then admitted that he had had to hire four new people to do the job I had been doing for years.

    Privately, I laughed. Openly, I told him I wasn’t interested, thanked him for calling and disconnected the call.

    On that note, I am also NOT stupid. I hold many degrees, including a BA, BFA, BS, M.Ed. and Ph.D. While achieving those degrees, and taking classes FULL time, every semester, I was also WORKING full time.

    I am VERY tired of the continuous “fattie” bashing going on in this country. People need to wake up. Magazines, media, television and movies alternately tell young girls — and boys; they are NOT exempt — that they HAVE to be rail thin. If they aren’t, they are bullied at school, some to the point of suicide, and a great deal to the point of developing eating disorders such as anorexia or bulemia, or both.

    GIRLS, WOMEN AND, YES, BOYS DIE FROM THESE DISEASES EVERY DAY BECAUSE OF BODY DISMORPHIC DISORDER. This means that a 5’8″ girl, weighing 65 pounds and seriously looking and being as starved as an Auschwitz (Nazi Germany) concentration camp prisoner … AND THINK THEY ARE TOO FAT. Therefore, they quite literally starve and purge themselves to death.

    It’s a silent epidemic because it’s easier to hide than obesity, and obesity IS NOT viewed by society as a disease — which it CAN be and quite often is. Unfortunately, because it has always been “in to be thin,” no one thinks twice when they see a stick thin girl or boy (such as those used in advertizing clothing, etc.) When they’re found out, then everyone is horrified and there’s a cry of “that poor girl/boy needs help!” and all the sympathy in the world is heaped upon them (understandably, too).

    However, an “overweight” or “obese” child/teen/adult is chided, bullied, abused and laughed at, sending that person into an even deeper depression, which is part of the disease.

    Society ONLY looks at these “fat, lazy and stupid” people as “drains” and “burdens” on society and the health care system.

    If you think anorexics and bulemics are NOT a “drain” or “burden” on society and the health care system, then you need to wake up, open your eyes and do some serious research and reading. Private health care does *not* generally pay for psychological/in-patient/out-patient treatment for these problems anymore than they do for treating the needs of obese people.

    Treatment in *both* cases is exorbitant. Gastric bypasses, sleeve gastrectomies and lapband surgeries ALL carry a significant risks, including DEATH. These surgeries are glamorized, but you rarely hear about the botched and deadly surgeries, or the fact that, in the great number of cases, it only makes the person VERY sick, constantly throwing up, etc. Researchers are finding results of quite a few of these surgeries actually cause malabsorption problems — of nutrients, vitamins and minerals, doing actually MORE damage than the extra weight ever had.

    I feel sorry for anyone who is so prejudiced against larger people and who call them names. If I had my way, everyone who has ever made a nasty remark to large/obese people should somehow be forced to live their lives, with the weight and the problems it causes — and listen to the ridicule and hatred. Their attitudes would, I believe, do an about face.

    Beyond that, name-callers and bullies, I’ve discovered through the years, are INVARIABLY *very* insecure people. These insure people have a sadly empty void in their hearts and souls, and their only gratification — temporary though it is — to put down and make fun of those they find inadequate and wanting. It makes them feel better about themselves, at the expense of others’ feelings.

    Sadly, these same people tend to procreate, then raise their children to have the same “values” and beliefs, perpetuating and continuing the role of bullying and hatre-mongering.

    What a sad comment on our society.

  • Lynn Dunn

    Do you exercise? Because you should. Everyone should, skinny or fat. Eat right, exercise. Simple concept, but it doesn’t provide enough of a “quick fix” for our instant gratification society.

  • Jennifer Jenn

    Sad to see the blanket term of “fatty” used so freely and openly. This is how we have become, you are either fat or skinny. Are the skinny so perfect? I see very few fat people as hateful and some of the sweetest people I know are overweight. What makes skinny so perfect? You might be skinny in person but you sure as hell got a FAT head!


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