Recent studies have shown that obesity and COVID-19 are a bad combination.
According to an analysis recently published in Obesity Reviews, international researchers found individuals with obesity who contracted COVID-19 were 113% more likely to be hospitalized, 74% more at risk to be admitted to the ICU and 48% more likely to die compared to individuals who were not obese.
“We’re in the middle of a COVID pandemic, but we’re also in the middle of an obesity epidemic in the U.S.,” said Dr. Jorge Sosa, medical director of bariatric survey at Palmetto General Hospital.
Sosa says he has seen more patients turning to weight loss surgery during this pandemic.
“We’ve seen a big increase because, A) we think that folks that had planned surgery and had to put it off are coming in and a lot of folks are beginning to realize obesity is a major health problem," Sosa said. "Now they’re finally saying my obesity is very dangerous, COVID magnifies that, and now we’re going to deal with it through weight loss surgery."
The surgeon believes people are seeking out the elective procedure due to recent studies linking obesity to complications with COVID-19.
“Obesity is the cause of many other problems that makes COVID very dangerous," Sosa said. "High blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes, so obesity has a major role in making COVID folks much sicker and more likely to die."
Tatiana Alvarez is a patient who underwent gastric bypass surgery in March just before the pandemic started and has seen results for her overall health.
“I wanted a better healthy lifestyle so I decided to do it to better myself and better my future," Alvarez said. "I’ve lost 60 pounds in total. It’s impacted me really good. I can breathe, I can run, I can do anything honestly."
Sosa says obesity can cause chronic inflammation and impact immunity cells, but he says this is one risk factor people can control with diet, exercise and in some cases, surgery. He advises patients to check their body mass index and consult with their doctor before any treatment.