Beer bellies are associated with a 75 per cent higher risk of developing serious Covid, a 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, appeared not to be linked to worse severity of the virus.
Doctors in Italy examined the health records of 215 patients in hospital with Covid. They measured the patients' BMI and waist circumference against chest X-rays (CXR), which were scored on a scale of zero to 18 for severity of infection. Patients with abdominal obesity had significantly higher X-ray scores - an average of nine - than those without who had an average of six.
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But 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, 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 than those without abdominal obesity.
Meanwhile, bronchial asthma increased the risk of a high CXR severity score by 73 per cent. The findings, compiled at IRCCS Policlinico San Donato, have been presented at the European Congress on Obesity.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year pledged to wage war on obesity after admitting that his own battle with his weight may have contributed to the severity of his experience with Covid.
Increasing levels of obesity have been blamed as a significant cause of the UK's high death toll from the pandemic.