One third of all hospital deaths from coronavirus in England have been among diabetics, The Daily Telegraph reports research shows. Experts said the major study, which included all patients hospitalised with COVID-19 over 10 weeks, showed that diabetes – which is often fuelled by obesity – is driving Britain's death toll.
The research, led by the national clinical director for diabetes and obesity, examined 23,804 COVID-19 deaths in hospitals between 1 March and 11 May. Of those, 7,466 occurred in people with type 2 diabetes, while 365 were in those with type 1 of the disease. Across the country, nine in 10 cases of diabetes are type 2, which is driven by obesity. Two in three adults in the UK are overweight or obese.
According to the report, the research showed that severe obesity doubled mortality risks in COVID-19 patients with type 1 diabetes, and increased it by almost half in those with type 2. High blood sugar, which is associated with uncontrolled diabetes, also significantly increased the dangers, doubling the mortality risk in type 1 diabetics and raising it by more than 60% for those with type 2.
The new studies did not establish why those with diabetes are at such heightened risk from coronavirus, but researchers said high blood sugar and complications from the condition might damage underlying health, while previous studies suggest excess weight can exacerbate breathing problems.
Professor Jonathan Valabhji, the national clinical director for diabetes and obesity and the lead author of the study, said: "This research shows the extent of the risk of coronavirus for people with diabetes and the different risks for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Importantly, it also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes. This can be worrying news but we would like to reassure people that the National Health Service (NHS) is here for anyone with concerns about diabetes."
The studies, which also involved Public Health England and Imperial College London, also found that those from black and ethnic minority (BAME) groups were at greater risk, making up more than 16% of deaths. More than six in 10 of those who died in hospital were male, while the average age was 79.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: "Though people may suffer with type 1 diabetes without being obese, obesity is the greatest risk factor for type 2." He said obesity is also a risk factor for four other underlying conditions – heart disease, dementia, kidney disease and asthma – that account for around three in four COVID deaths.
"The short-term impact of obesity is devastating but it may be nothing compared to the damage it could wreak long term," he warned.Full report in The Daily Telegraph NHS England study 1 NHS England study 2