Study: Surgery-induced weight loss reduces risk for severe COVID-19 in obese people


Study: Surgery-induced weight loss reduces risk for severe COVID-19

Surgery to induce weight loss can lower the risk for severe COVID-19 in people with obesity, according to a new study. Photo by mojzagrebinfo/Pixabay

Dec. 29 (UPI) — People with obesity who undergo weight-loss surgery lower their risk for severe COVID-19, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Surgery found.

Those who had either Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy because they were obese, or severely overweight, reduced their risk for hospitalization from COVID-19 by half, the data showed.

In addition, their risk for serious illness from the virus fell by about 60%.

The procedures also improved overall health, reducing patients’ risk for death from all causes over a 10-year period by more than 50%, according to the researchers.

“If we help patients to lose weight, we can reverse many health consequences of obesity,” study co-author Dr. Ali Aminian told UPI in an email.

“This study clearly demonstrated that obesity is a ‘modifiable’ risk factor for COVID-19,” said Aminian, a professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic.

More than 40% of adults in the United States meet the criteria for obesity, which is defined as a body mass index, or BMI, over 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

BMI is a measure that takes a person’s weight in kilograms and divides it by their height in square meters to assess weight in the context of size.

Being obese or severely overweight has been linked in earlier studies with more severe COVID-19 symptoms and an increased risk for long-term, or “long-haul,” health complications from the virus.

For this study, Aminian and his colleagues analyzed health data for more than 20,000 adults who underwent weight-loss surgery at the Cleveland Clinic between 2004 and 2017 and compared them with a similar population of people who did not have the procedures.

Participants who had surgery underwent either Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or sleeve gastrectomy, the researchers said.

In Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, surgeons create a small pouch from the stomach and connect it to the small intestine so that food consumed will go to the pouch and then directly to the small intestine, minimizing weight gain, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

In sleeve gastrectomy, surgeons reduce the size of the stomach by up to 85% so that patients do not need to consume as much food to feel full, the hospital explains.

Study participants who had surgery lost an average of 19% of their body weight following their procedures, the researchers said.

About 9% of the participants in both the surgery and non-surgery groups tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021.

However, about half as many of those in the surgery group developed severe illness or required hospitalization due to the virus compared with the non-surgery group, the data showed.

“Obesity weakens the immune system, creates a chronic inflammatory state and increases risk for heart disease, blood clots and lung conditions, [and] all of these conditions can complicate COVID-19,” Aminian said.

“We showed that losing large amount of weight, achieved with surgery, can reverse many of these consequences and improve clinical outcomes of COVID-19,” he said.

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