A Cleveland Clinic study shows that among patients with obesity, prior weight loss achieved with bariatric surgery was associated with a 60 percent lower risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19 infection.
Numerous studies have established obesity as a major risk factor for developing serious illness from an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Obesity weakens the immune system, creates a chronic inflammatory state, and increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, blood clots, and lung conditions, all of which can complicate COVID-19.
The research published in the journal JAMA Surgery aims to examine whether a successful weight-loss intervention in patients with obesity reduces the risk of developing a severe form of coronavirus disease.
This observational study included a total of 20,212 adult obese patients. A group of 5,053 patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater who had weight-loss surgery between 2004 and 2017 were carefully matched 1:3 to non-surgical patients, resulting in 15,159 control patients.
Patients who underwent bariatric surgery lost 19 percent more body weight than those who did not, prior to the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Cleveland on March 1, 2020.
Our study provides strong evidence that obesity is a modifiable risk factor for COVID-19 that can be improved through a successful weight-loss intervention. Although the exact underlying mechanisms are not known, these data suggest that patients who underwent weight-loss surgery were healthier at the time of contracting a SARS-CoV-2 infection, which resulted in better clinical outcomes.”
After the COVID-19 outbreak, researchers looked at four COVID-19-related outcomes such as the rate of contracting SARS-CoV-2 infection, hospitalization, need for supplemental oxygen, and severe disease, which are defined as a combination of ICU admission, need for mechanical ventilation, or death.
Researchers found that patients with prior weight loss surgery had a 49 percent lower risk of hospitalization, 63 percent lower risk of need for supplemental oxygen, and 60 percent lower risk of developing severe COVID-19.