Diabetes increases mortality in COVID-19


Also obesity and high blood pressure

by Michael Richter

(17.05.2022) Obesity, impaired blood sugar metabolism and high blood pressure increase the risk of dying from COVID-19 in young adults and middle-aged people between 18 and 55 years of age to a level that is otherwise only observed in older people. This is shown by a current study based on data from the European case registry for patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection (LEOSS).

The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) and the German Diabetes Society (DDG) see the results as an incentive to continue to focus on prevention in the fight against non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. They point out that older people, and especially men, are at particularly high risk of becoming seriously ill and dying from COVID-19. Obesity and elevated blood sugar levels are also considered potential risk factors for severe COVID-19 courses. However, the effect that several previous illnesses in combination have on the course of a SARS-CoV-2 infection has not yet been sufficiently investigated in Germany.

In order to find out whether obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure influence the severity of COVID-19 disease and increase the associated mortality, researchers from, among others, the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), the IDM (Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases). from Helmholtz Munich at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen), and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), evaluated data from a total of 3,163 patients with a SARS-CoV-2 infection from the European case registry LEOSS2.

“It was shown that obesity, a disturbed blood sugar metabolism and high blood pressure have an additive effect on COVID-19-related mortality – especially in comparatively younger patients aged between 18 and 55 years,” explains Professor Dr. medical Norbert Stefan, first author of the study. The study also concluded that people in this age group with all three pre-existing conditions have a similar increased risk of death as older people (56-75 years) who were metabolically healthy and not obese. “This finding has an immense impact on how we deal with the SARS-CoV-2 infection and the so-called widespread diseases, because so far many of those affected assumed that being younger largely protects against a serious infection with COVID-19,” says Stefan.

“It is therefore particularly important to intensify medical monitoring and therapy for younger COVID-19 patients. Especially if you are overweight, have diabetes or high blood pressure,” says the last author of the study, Professor Dr. medical Andreas Birkenfeld, medical director of the Medical Clinic IV of the University of Tübingen, head of the IDM and spokesman for the DZD. Based on their many years of knowledge about the important role of obesity and a disturbed metabolic situation in the development of serious diseases, Stefan, Birkenfeld and colleagues pointed out these risks early on in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic thus clearly shows that it is important for politicians to implement far-reaching preventive measures. This also includes promoting plans for the further development of the Prevention Protection Act in order to counteract the advance of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. “Politics must create framework conditions that make health-promoting behavior possible and change the conditions in relation to exercise and nutrition in such a way that all German citizens benefit from them,” says Professor Dr. medical Andreas Fritsche, Vice President of the DDG from the Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases at Helmholtz Munich at the University of Tübingen.

“This includes, in particular, targeted individual preventive measures for high-risk populations, as we recently demonstrated in the Prediabetes Lifestyle Intervention Study (PLIS).” Wherever technical expertise is needed for the implementation of future projects, the DDG and the DZD are there with you Network of science, doctors, consulting professions and patient associations available as discussion partners.

About the LEOSS study:

On the initiative of the German Society for Infectious Diseases (DGI), a European case register was set up together with the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), in which clinical data for patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection is collected. LEOSS is a European non-interventional multicenter cohort study. Launched in March 2020, the registry is characterized by the fact that all collected data goes to the scientific community for joint analysis. The German Centers for Health Research (DZG) are also involved in the register. The DZD uses the register, for example, to investigate the influence of obesity and a disturbed metabolism on the severity of a COVID-19 disease.

About the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) eV:

The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) eV is one of the six German centers for health research. It brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and combines basic research, epidemiology and clinical application. The aim of the DZD is to make a significant contribution to the successful, tailor-made prevention, diagnosis and therapy of diabetes mellitus using a new, integrative research approach.

Members of the network are the Helmholtz Munich – German Research Center for Health and the Environment, the German Diabetes Center DDZ in Düsseldorf, the German Institute for Human Nutrition DIfE in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, the Institute for Diabetes Research and Metabolic Diseases at Helmholtz Munich on the Eberhard-Karls -University of Tübingen and the Paul Langerhans Institute Dresden of the Helmholtz Munich at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus of the TU Dresden, associated partners at the universities in Heidelberg, Cologne, Leipzig, Lübeck and Munich as well as other project partners. Further information:

About the German Diabetes Society (DDG):

With more than 9,200 members, the German Diabetes Society (DDG) is one of the largest medical and scientific specialist societies in Germany. It supports science and research, is involved in further education and training, certifies treatment facilities and develops guidelines. The aim is more effective prevention and treatment of the widespread disease diabetes, which affects more than eight million people in Germany. To this end, it also undertakes extensive health policy activities.