WEDNESDAY, Dec. 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Individuals with obesity who have undergone weight loss surgery have a reduced risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, according to a study published online Dec. 29 in JAMA Surgery.

Ali Aminian, M.D., from the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues examined the association between a successful weight loss intervention and improved risk and severity of COVID-19 infection among adults with a body mass index of 35 kg/m2 or higher. Participants underwent weight loss surgery between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2017. Participants were matched 1:3 to a control group who did not have surgical intervention for obesity. A total of 20,212 participants were included; COVID-19 outcomes were available for 11,809.

Compared with control patients, those in the surgical group lost more weight before the COVID-19 outbreak (mean difference at 10 years from baseline, 18.6 percent) and had a lower 10-year cumulative incidence of all-cause non-COVID-19 mortality (4.7 versus 9.4 percent). The researchers found that the surgical and control groups had comparable rates of positive severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 test results (9.1 versus 8.7 percent). The risks for hospitalization, need for supplemental oxygen, and severe COVID-19 infection were lower in association with undergoing weight loss surgery (adjusted hazard ratios, 0.51, 0.37, and 0.40, respectively).

“Metabolic surgery has been shown to effectively treat obesity and many comorbid diseases, resulting in improved health, quality of life, and long-term survival,” write the authors of an accompanying editorial. “COVID-19 should now be added to the long list of obesity comorbidities that can be mitigated by metabolic surgery.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and medical technology companies, including Medtronic, which funded the study.

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