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Adults with obesity more prone to COVID-19 infection and its complications: Study

Number of patients opting for bariatric surgery to get rid of obesity has increased significantly after COVID-19 lockdown: Expert

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An international study reveals that young adults with obesity are more prone to COVID-19 infection and its complications. Obesity has been shown to alter immune function and increase susceptibility to infection from different pathogens. It is associated with decreased pulmonary function, including decreased expiratory reserve volume and respiratory system compliance, which may place a person with obesity at a higher risk of COVID-19 complications.

Elaborating on adult obesity and related complications, Dr Mufazzal Lakdawala, Director & Head, Department for General & Minimal access surgery, Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital & Research Center, said, “It has been quite evident that obesity has been one of the biggest comorbidities for increased mortality rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first meta-analysis of its kind, an international team of researchers pooled data from scores of peer-reviewed papers capturing 399,000 patients. They found that obese individuals who contracted SARS-CoV-2 were 113 per cent more likely than people of healthy weight to land in the hospital, 74% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, and 48 per cent more likely to die. Another study, the largest descriptive study yet of hospitalised COVID-19 patients, found that 77 per cent of nearly 17,000 patients were overweight (29 per cent) or obese (48 per cent).”

Adding further, Dr Lakdawala said, “It has been established that obesity negatively affects immunity. It is also linked to a number of independent comorbidities, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, fatty liver, and respiratory disease. People with obesity have had a bad experience during COVID-19 as they faced the double axed sword. On the one hand, they were prone to infection, on the other hand, those seeking surgery to get rid of obesity didn’t pursue it due to lockdown. However, the number of patients opting for bariatric surgery to get rid of obesity has increased significantly after COVID-19 lockdown. We have been performing more surgeries post lockdown. We have interesting case studies of bariatric surgery to share that we came across during and post lockdown. One of the patients Ms Sakshi (name changed) consulted us in Jan’ 2020 and her surgery was scheduled for Feb’. She had a BMI of almost 40 along with co-morbidities like hypertension, PCOS, GERD and joint pain. But due to a nationwide lockdown, her surgery got postponed. As soon as we restarted performing surgeries in late August 2020, Ms Sakshi was one of the first patients we operated on. We did bariatric surgery, which was successful and now she is in good health.  Another patient, Mr Madhav (name changed) consulted us in Jan’ 2020. He weighed more than 200 Kg with an approx BMI of 73. He had comorbidities like sleep apnea and joint pain. The situation was quite grim for him during the lockdown as he was at an increased risk to be infected by COVID due to his overweight. Hence, as soon as the lockdown was lifted partially, and the airports were reopened, he flew down to us and the Bariatric surgery was performed on him successfully.”

Recent studies have reported that globally, more than 1.9 billion adults are overweight and 650 million are obese. Approximately 2.8 million deaths are reported as a result of being overweight or obese). In India, more than 135 million individuals are affected by obesity wherein abdominal obesity is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVDs).


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