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

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

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

December 29 (UPI) – People with obesity undergoing weight loss surgery lower their risk of severe COVID-19, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Surgery found.

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

In addition, their risk of serious disease from the virus decreased by about 60%.

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

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

“This study clearly showed 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 relation to size.

Being overweight or severely obese has in previous studies been associated with more severe COVID-19 symptoms and an increased risk of long-term or “long-term” 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 to a similar population of people who did not have the procedures.

Participants who underwent surgery underwent either Roux-en-Y gastric bypass or cervical rectomy, the researchers said.

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

In cervical rectomy, surgeons reduce the size of the stomach by up to 85%, so patients do not have to eat as much food to feel full, the hospital explains.

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

About 9% of participants in both surgical and non-surgical 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 serious illness or required hospitalization due to the virus compared to the non-surgical group, the data showed.

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

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

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