Newswise — NEWBERRY, FL – Dec. 29, 2021 – Adults with obesity who had weight-loss surgery and achieved substantial weight loss prior to contracting COVID-19 reduced their risk for developing severe outcomes from the infection by 60% compared to those who did not have surgery, according to a new Cleveland Clinic study published online today in the journal JAMA Surgery. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), having obesity increases the risk of severe illness from COVID.

“This is an important study that shows that patients with obesity who had bariatric surgery and subsequently developed COVID-19 had greatly reduced their risk for hospitalization, supplemental oxygen, and severe infection compared to similar patients that did not have bariatric surgery,” said Shanu N. Kothari, MD, president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS), who was not involved in the study. “This timely study should serve as further motivation for patients and their doctors to treat the disease of obesity before potentially having to treat its dangerous consequences.” 

Obesity is linked to more than 40 diseases including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and at least 13 different types of cancer. The CDC reports that from 1999 –2000 through 2017 –2018, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. increased from 30% to 42% and severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%. 

Metabolic/bariatric surgery has been shown to be the most effective and durable treatment for severe obesity, resulting in significant weight loss and resolution or improvements in diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and many other diseases. The safety profile of laparoscopic bariatric surgery is comparable to some of the safest and most commonly performed surgeries in the U.S. including gallbladder surgery, appendectomy and knee replacement. 

An estimated 256,000 bariatric surgeries were performed in 2019, according to the ASMBS, which represents less than 1 percent of the currently eligible surgical population by BMI. Nearly 60% were sleeve gastrectomies, an increasingly popular procedure that involves removing most of the stomach and shaping the remainder into a tube or sleeve, restricting the amount of food it can hold. About 18% of procedures were gastric bypass.

About the ASMBS

The ASMBS is the largest organization for bariatric surgeons in the nation. It is a non-profit organization that works to advance the art and science of bariatric surgery and is committed to educating medical professionals and the lay public about bariatric surgery as an option for the treatment of severe obesity, as well as the associated risks and benefits. It encourages its members to investigate and discover new advances in bariatric surgery, while maintaining a steady exchange of experiences and ideas that may lead to improved surgical outcomes for patients with severe obesity. For more information, visit


Journal Link: JAMA Surgery