Nearly two years into fighting COVID-19, we may have learned how to build our immunity but experts say we have unmasked another killer, obesity. 

“With so many people working from home and living a much more sedentary lifestyle, obesity has been steadily on the rise,“ said Hans Schmidt, MD, chief, Bariatric Surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center. 

In fact, new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 16 states now have obesity rates of 35% or higher. That's an increase of four states — Delaware, Iowa, Ohio and Texas — in just one year.

“Obesity is a leading risk factor for almost every serious disease from diabetes and heart disease, to cancer and even COVID-19,” explained Dr. Schmidt. 

So it may come as no surprise that interest in bariatric surgery is also on the rise. “At one point during the pandemic, it was estimated that 78% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were obese or overweight and this had a major impact, people realized there was a correlation and were afraid,” explained Dr. Schmidt.

Emerging research may now explain why. A new, non-peer reviewed study found that COVID-19 may infect fat cells directly. The news may suggest that overweight and obese people may be at increased risk for severe disease and long COVID.

Today, Dr. Schmidt’s office is seeing a rise in people interested in learning more about weight loss options, including bariatric surgery. 

Beyond weight loss, new studies show bariatric surgery boosts life expectancy, reduces pressure inside the skull, lowers the risk of liver disease, COVID-19  and is effective at improving vascular outcomes.