Some studies report that obesity is associated with more severe symptoms following SARS-CoV-2 infection and worse COVID-19 outcomes, however many other studies have not reproduced these findings. Therefore, it is uncertain whether obesity is in fact associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes compared to non-obese individuals. We conducted a systematic search of PubMed (including MEDLINE) and Google Scholar on May 18, 2020 to identify published studies on COVID-19 outcomes in non-obese and obese patients, covering studies published during the first 6 months of the pandemic. Meta-analyses with random effects modeling was used to determine unadjusted odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for various COVID-19 outcomes in obese versus non-obese patients. By quantitative analyses of 22 studies from 7 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia, we found that obesity is associated with an increased likelihood of presenting with more severe COVID-19 symptoms (OR 3.03, 95% CI 1.45-6.28, P = 0.003; 4 studies, n = 974), developing acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS; OR 2.89, 95% CI 1.14-7.34, P = 0.025; 2 studies, n = 96), requiring hospitalization (OR 1.68, 95% CI 1.14-1.59, P < 0.001; 4 studies, n = 6611), being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU; OR 1.35, 95% CI 1.15-1.65, P = 0.001; 9 studies, n = 5298), and undergoing invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV; OR 1.76, 95% CI 1.29-2.40, P < 0.001; 7 studies, n = 1558) compared to non-obese patients. However, obese patients had similar likelihoods of death from COVID-19 as non-obese patients (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.74-1.25, P = 0.750; 9 studies, n = 20,597). Collectively, these data from the first 6 months of the pandemic suggested that obesity is associated with a more severe COVID-19 disease course but may not be associated with increased mortality.
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