Belly fat increases your risk of serious Covid-19: Study
Fat around the waist may be a stronger indicator of developing severe complications from the coronavirus than overall obesity, new research shows.
Statistics have repeatedly flagged obesity as a risk factor for the disease COVID-19.
Carrying fat around the abdomen – known as an "apple" body shape – has long been linked to the onset of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers.
Italian medics have now revealed that belly fat is associated with more severe chest X-ray results in coronavirus patients.
Although the picture is still unclear, abdominal fat in particular may trigger inflammation that can cause serious damage throughout a patient's body.
Amid the pandemic, chest X-rays "have played a very important role in the early diagnosis and treatment of patients with suspected or confirmed infections", the medics wrote in the journal Eating And Weight Disorders – Studies On Anorexia, Bulimia And Obesity.
Coronavirus patients are often scored according to their X-ray to gauge the severity of their disease, with higher results being linked to a greater risk of death.
When it comes to diagnosing obesity, many experts argue that body mass index (BMI) is an inaccurate measurement for failing to take fat distribution into account.
"Location is the key when it comes to body fat," wrote the medics.
Obesity has been linked to widespread inflammation, with "excess abdominal visceral [around several vital organs] fat considered the main culprit".
To better understand abdominal fat's role in the onset of coronavirus complications, medics from the walk-in clinic IRCCS Policlinico San Donato in Milan analysed the BMI, waist circumference and chest X-ray severity scores of 215 people hospitalised with the infection.
An obese waist circumference was defined as measuring 102cm or more around the belly button in men, and at least 88cm in women.
The patients were grouped according to their chest X-ray scores, with zero representing a normal lung function and 18 being the most severe.
Results – also presented at the virtual European Congress on Obesity – reveal the patients with abdominal obesity had an average X-ray score of nine or above, with eight considered to be high.
This is compared with a score of six among those who did not carry excess fat around their waist.