Beer bellies increase risk of serious Covid by up to 75 per cent

a man in a blue shirt: Patients with abdominal obesity had significantly higher X-ray scores, the study found - Paul Ellis/AFP © Paul Ellis/AFP Patients with abdominal obesity had significantly higher X-ray scores, the study found - Paul Ellis/AFP

Beer bellies increase the risk of developing serious Covid by as much as 75 per cent, a new study suggests.

Scientists are calling for Covid patients with pronounced abdominal fat to be closely monitored.

However, the study found that general body fat, as measured by body mass index (BMI), appeared not to be linked to worse severity of the virus.

Doctors in Italy examined the health records of 215 patients hospitalised with Covid and measured their BMI and waist circumference against chest X-ray (CXR), which were scored on a scale of zero to 18 for severity. Higher CXR scores typically indicate a more severe Covid infection. 

Patients with abdominal obesity had significantly higher X-ray scores – an average of nine – than those without, who had an average of six. It meant patients with abdominal obesity were likely to have a 59 per cent chance of a score classed as "high", compared to 35 per cent without.

However, when the scientists examined the patients' BMI – the traditional method of determining whether a person is overweight – they found the chances of a high X-ray score were similar between those who were obese, overweight and of a healthy weight.

"Abdominal obesity might predict a high chest X-ray severity score better than general obesity in hospitalised patients with Covid-19," the authors wrote. "Therefore, in hospital, waist circumference should be measured and patients with abdominal obesity should be monitored closely."

Patients with abdominal obesity were at a 75 per cent increased risk of a higher CXR severity score that those without abdominal obesity. Meanwhile bronchial asthma increased the risk of a high CXR severity score by 73 per cent.

The new findings, compiled at I.R.C.C.S.Policlinico San Donato, a clinic near Milan, have been presented at the European Congress on Obesity.

Last year, Boris Johnson pledged to wage war on obesity after admitting his own battle with his weight may have contributed to the severity of his experience with Covid, which saw him treated in intensive care.

Increasing levels of obesity have been blamed as a significant cause of the UK's high death toll from the pandemic. In September, a study found that even modest weight gain can increase the risk of severe disease from the virus.

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Beer bellies increase risk of serious Covid by up to 75 per cent