London, July 19 | A group of Indian-origin doctors has warned that inherent racial bias in medical research and practice could be exacerbating the disproportionately severe impact of COVID-19 among ethnic minorities in the UK and globally, as they call for a wider study into lifestyle-related risks among them.
They warn that genetic predisposition may be a key factor behind South Asians developing conditions linked to obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes, at much lower levels of body fat.
While metabolic syndrome (MetS) that increases a person’s wider health risk is known to be behind the severity of the deadly virus among some ethnic groups, UK-based cardiologist Aseem Malhotra and British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (BAPIO) chairman JS Bamrah and US-based infectious disease and obesity physician Ravi Kamepalii highlight that the genetic factors behind MetS are not being properly factored in.
But these are not being identified as high risk and managed appropriately because of the general focus on Body Mass Index (BMI) as a proxy for healthy weight.
Using Body Mass Index (BMI) as a proxy for healthy weight’ may provide the illusion of protection and will miss a substantial proportion of those from black and South Asian ethnic minority groups with MetS risk, they write in the peer-reviewed academic journal The Physician’.
BMI is determined by a person’s weight relative to their height and a BMI above 30 is taken as the standard measure for unhealthiness in the UK. According to Public Health England (PHE), those from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are at increased risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19.