Body mass index (BMI) is a risk factor for developing novel coronavirus 2019 among African-American population, finds a new study. The findings of the study are published in the journal Obesity.// This is the first study that focuses specifically on the risk factors within an African-American population.
‘Obesity is a significant determinant of disease severity in the African-American population. ’Age and comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes have been well identified as risk factors for the development of the severe disease. Obesity is also emerging as a risk factor for severe disease development. However, this study adds further evidence supporting the association that body mass index is connected with disease severity in the African-American population.
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"It is of tremendous importance that we identify risk factors and those individuals who may be at increased risk for severe COVID-19 infection so that we are able to dedicate efforts towards supporting those most affected and in need," said Christine Bojanowski, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Section of Pulmonary Diseases, Critical Care and Environmental Medicine at Tulane University Health Science Center in New Orleans, La. Bojanowski is the corresponding author of the study.
Bojanowski added, "this study is of particular interest in response to emerging reports revealing the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the African American community in our country. Further inclusive research aimed at optimizing clinical care relevant to the African-American population is critical to ensure an equitable response to COVID-19."
Researchers included 158 confirmed COVID-19 positive African-American patients who presented to Tulane Medical Center between March 12 and April 9, 2020, in their study. Participants were identified through reported laboratory testing during the aforementioned time period. Researchers obtained individual patient data through retrospective, electronic medical record review.
To define and determine severe disease, participants had to require intensive care unit admission for COVID-19 related complications. In the study, this closely aligned with respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation.
In unadjusted and adjusted analysis, the factors most associated with ICU admission were age, BMI and lung disease.
Researchers propose that a lower threshold be considered for BMI than the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations that describe individuals with BMI greater than 40 as "high risk" for severe illnesses in COVID-19.
"Instead of stigmatization of black adults with obesity, this pandemic, a hopefully once-in-a-century health crisis, is a clarion call to decrease and eventually eliminate long-standing health disparities and underlying adverse societal structural factors," said Keith C. Ferdinand, MD, FACC, FAHA, FASPC, FNLA, FASPC, professor of medicine, Gerald S. Berenson Endowed chair in Preventive Cardiology, Tulane University School of Medicine, in a commentary about the study.