It is well documented that obesity is one of the greatest risk factors for serious COVID infection. According to the CDC, obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection.
Nearly a third of all COVID hospitalizations between the beginning of the pandemic and November 18th, 2020 were attributed to obesity.
But obesity is often genetic and losing that weight can be incredibly difficult no matter how hard you try.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the chances of someone obese losing 5% of their body weight on their own through diet and nutrition was only 1 in 10 in women and 1 in 12 in men.
A new study published in Jama recently, however, suggests that bariatric surgery can improve COVID-19 outcomes in obese individuals.
“I have people coming to me and saying, ‘I got to lose weight because I don’t think I’ll survive it if I get it,’” said Dr. Michael Snyder, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Rose Medical Center in Denver. “For the first time ever, we can say losing weight—notably with bariatric surgery—there is a high likelihood it’ll improve your health and save your life.”
According to the study, individuals who received bariatric surgery were 49% less likely to be admitted to the hospital if they were infected with COVID-19. They were also 63% less likely to need supplemental oxygen than those who did not receive surgery, and their chances of a COVID-19 infection turning into serious disease were 60% lower.
“It is nice to know that I’ve given myself a better chance to fight against [COVID-19],” said Alicia Williamson, who received a mini-gastric bypass surgery in April 2021. “I had gotten to the heaviest weight I had ever been. I just started feeling if I didn’t make a change now, I’m going to miss out on a lot of things with my kids.”
Prior to her surgery, Alicia weighed almost 400 pounds. Now, nine months later, she is 230 pounds.
“Honestly, it kind of makes us think, not that COVID is not scary, but we all have to live. We got to live our life and that’s what I want to do is live, and have fun, and make memories with my kids so I’m glad this [surgery] has given me an opportunity to be healthier," she said.
Dr. Snyder suggests considering other weight loss options, like bariatric surgery, if you are more than 50 pounds overweight, as that is when more serious COVID-19 complications begin to occur.