Science and Tech


Weight Loss Surgeries Up During Pandemic

One of the biggest COVID risk factors is obesity. Growing numbers of obese people are now turning to surgery.
Posted at 4:49 PM, Nov 12, 2020

"I'm losing while people are gaining."

 Amanda Kines-Phillips, a 37-year-old mom from Cairo, Georgia, says her weight has changed during the pandemic. For her, being healthy for her kids was a priority. 

"I'm from the South. We love our Southern comfort food. Give us the fried food, the sweet tea, girl. I mean, I didn't exercise. I just didn't. You get to a point, you don't really realize how big you've gotten," she said.

With a family history of weight issues, she opted for a mini gastric bypass surgery from Dr. Michael Snyder—traveling to Denver to get the procedure this summer. This week, she returned for a four-month follow up. She’s lost 55 pounds. 

Snyder says from Zoom consults to surgeries, his practice, which includes four surgeons, is at capacity. 

"As if we needed another threat to call to action obesity and taking care of your obesity, this is really a very provocative and important one," Snyder said.

Hospitals have ramped up elective surgeries after pausing for months earlier in the pandemic. Patients like Amanda are causing an increase in bariatric surgeries—procedures like gastric bypasses, laparoscopic bands and gastric sleeves which restrict stomach size and alter signals between the stomach and brain. The hope is the weight loss will help them in the fight against COVID.

"When you are healthy and you are physically fit, that your immune system is not as compromised," Amanda said.

"It's been shown that that people do worse with viral infections and infections in general when they're obese. And in addition, you know, the success of the vaccine is limited in people that are obese for any viral vaccine," said Snyder.

That’s right—vaccines don’t work as well for those who are obese. While we don’t have a COVID vaccine yet, take a look the flu shot, for example. Research from 2017 showed vaccinated obese adults were twice as likely to get the flu.

"Obesity is 42 plus percent of Americans. And if you're African American, it's much higher. So it's really an important problem in terms of our public health of America. It's not something we can ignore," said Snyder.

For Amanda, she’s glad she made the choice to get her surgery, and has some advice for others who may be considering it. 

"If you're scared, there is absolutely nothing to be scared of. This is your story. This is your life," she said.