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More than a million people had obesity-related treatment in hospitals in England in the year leading into the global pandemic, figures reveal.

The record number provides the clearest indication yet of the scale of the obesity problem as coronavirus started to spread across the UK.

Being overweight is one of the most significant risk factors for severe Covid.

Experts say the data should be a wake-up call for tackling obesity.

Main cause
The figures, published by NHS Digital, show a 17% increase in hospital admissions where obesity was a factor, compared with the year before.

This amounts to almost 150,000 more instances of people being admitted to hospital over the course of a year.

The number of admissions where obesity was recorded as the main cause actually fell to 10,780 last year, from 11,117 in 2018-19.

But this is mainly due to a fall in the number of bariatric surgeries (including gastric bands and bypasses) being performed.

Women accounted for two-thirds (64%) of admissions where obesity was a factor.

Killing people
Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine, at the University of Glasgow, says obesity is "the strongest risk factor for diabetes".

"It's a strong risk factor for heart disease, for heart failure, for lung disease, for kidney disease, for multiple other conditions," he says.

"If we now add to that obesity is a strong risk factor for this acute viral pandemic which is killing people worldwide, then... this is a wake-up call.

"Many health systems and government really do now need to pay attention to obesity.

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