Weight loss surgery: Is it possible to prevent coronavirus?

Written by: Mr Ahmed R. Ahmed
Published: | Updated: 23/05/2023
Edited by: Laura Burgess

At the end of July 2020, the UK government launched a campaign known as Better Health as a way for the nation to tackle obesity. The goal is to get the nation fit and healthy so that they can be protected against COVID-19 as plenty of evidence shows that there is a link between obesity and being at an increased risk from coronavirus.

According to the UK government: ‘Nearly 8% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9% of the general population.’

Mr Ahmed R. Ahmed is one of London’s leading bariatric surgeons. At the beginning of the pandemic, his surgeries were put on hold as he instead worked in intensive care units (ICU) in the UK capital to treat patients with COVID-19. Here, he discusses the possibility of weight loss surgeries as a way for overweight or obese patients to reduce their risk of the virus.



Coronavirus has highlighted an obesity problem in the UK, why do you think that is?


There is increasing evidence which clearly demonstrates that people who suffer from the worst outcomes from coronavirus are either old, male, of BAME ethnicity or overweight/ obese.

Out of these four risk categories the only modifiable one is excess weight. In particular, there have been four studies from China, New York, France and the UK, which all show that those who are obese are up to three times at higher risk of severe COVID-19. They have higher rates of admission to the ICU and dying.


Does the UK government want to bring forward access to bariatric operations as a way of quickly tackling coronavirus?


The government’s strategy was announced on Monday 27th July 2020. It is very likely that NHS bariatric surgery numbers will increase significantly, specifically to tackle the obesity crisis in order to try and prevent the second wave.

That being said, however, already there are 2.3 million people who meet the national criteria for weight loss surgeryand it is difficult to see how we will be able to expand the provision of bariatric surgeries to cope with the increasing demand due to COVID-19.


Which medical conditions are related to obesity, and how do they tie into coronavirus?


Obesity is associated with a number of health problems. Being severely overweight can affect lung function, which can lead to conditions such as sleep apnoea, asthma, pulmonary hypertension and reduced lung function. Then there is also type 2 diabetes and overall increased inflammation. These are known to make coronavirus infection worse.


As an expert bariatric surgeon, what is your opinion on all of this?


I have been canvassing for weight loss surgeries to happen as a way of tackling coronavirus for the last three months since the pandemic started. I am really happy to see that, finally, the people in power are beginning to listen to what most bariatric surgeons have known for a long time.


In having weight loss surgery, how long would the process take to reverse type 2 diabetes?


Bariatric or metabolic surgery can reverse type 2 diabetes within a matter of days after surgery. A significant amount of weight loss can even take place within three months of the operation.


If this push for more bariatric procedures does go ahead, how will it be organised?


If this push goes ahead, the NHS will struggle to provide the capacity needed for weight loss surgery. At the moment, we are still catching up with other treatments that have been delayed such as cancer surgery. There will be difficult decisions on prioritising surgeries.

I expect many patients will have to contact private providers to help receive bariatric surgery. Currently, in the private sector, the provision of bariatric surgery is getting back to normal.


If you are worried about being at risk of coronavirus and would like to discuss your weight loss surgery options, you can book an appointment with Mr Ahmed R. Ahmed via his Top Doctors profile. He is also available for an online video call using our e-Consultation tool.

By Mr Ahmed R. Ahmed

Mr Ahmed R. Ahmed is one of London's leading surgeons. Practising on Harley Street and other reputable clinics, he specialises in laparoscopic (keyhole) gastrointestinal and hernia surgery as well as having a specialist interest in weight loss. He has been committed to education and training, winning numerous prizes and awards throughout his career and now he serves as a senior lecturer at Imperial College London. He runs his own research team investigating mechanisms of weight loss surgery as well as researching newer technologies for helping people lose weight. He forms an integral part of numerous professional bodies including the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society and has been widely published in numerous field-related, peer-reviewed journals. Mr Ahmed was elected to council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and also sits on council of the British Obesity and Metabolic Surgery Society.

Mr Ahmed will provide you with a friendly and honest opinion regarding your suitability for surgery, putting your safety and well-being as the first priority. He pays particular attention to pre and postoperative care in order to optimise the outcome of your operation and provide you with a smooth recovery after surgery. Mr Ahmed has >99% success in achieving a complete laparoscopic result without converting to open surgery.

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