New Studies Show Weight Loss Surgery Can Help More Than Diet & Exercise

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Often times when Americans are told by their doctor that they need to lose weight, they are given the traditional advice--diet and exercise.  While this is by no means bad advice, a new study shows that there may be a more effective, better alternative-- weight loss surgery.

Weight Loss Surgery

The concept of weight loss surgery is nothing new: commercials for having liposuction or lap band procedures to reduce fat have been airing for years, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the annual rate of patients receiving such treatment is rising astronomically.  However, a new study conducted by BMJ, an open-access, peer-reviewed medical journal, states that weight loss surgery is more effective at reducing body weight, as compared to non surgical methods.            

Bariatric Surgery

The procedure in question used to treat morbid obesity is called bariatric surgery, and typically it will consist of three commonly used techniques- gastric banding, gastric bypassing, or sleeve gastrectomy.  Gastric banding, perhaps the most well known of these procedures, involves fitting a band around the stomach, which results in the person feeling full after consuming a smaller amount of food.  Gastric bypassing involves dividing the stomach into two pouches, and re routing the small intestine to both.  Originally this was considered dangerous, but in recent years it has become much safer, with long term complications reduced by 40%.  Lastly is sleeve gastrectomy, an irreversible procedure that reduces the stomach to about 25% of its original size.  This surgery is generally performed on children and adolescents and not adults.

The Research

To get these results, the researchers took a test group of 796 obese adults, each having a BMI between 30 and 52 (any BMI number over 30 is considered obese.)  Some of these adults underwent one of the above three forms of bariatric surgery, while the rest went through more conventional methods of weight loss- dieting, exercise, medication, behavioral therapy, etc.  After two years, the average person who underwent the weight loss surgery had lost about 26 kilograms (57+ pounds) more than the average patient who lost weight through the traditional manner.  Perhaps even more astonishingly, say the researchers: "This meta-analysis provides comprehensive evidence that, compared with non-surgical treatment of obesity, bariatric surgery leads to greater body weight loss and higher remission rates of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome."

This very well may be a big push for obese Americans to handle their weight in a different way, through clinically tested and safe medical procedures.  Research from this study states that of all those who underwent the surgery, zero experienced cardiovascular events, and none died.  This is quite encouraging news, as the country’s troubles with obesity continue to rise, with more than 800 people dying a day from it, and more than 300,000 deaths a year attributed to it.  Of course, the one and only very important aspect to weight loss surgery holding many Americans back from receiving it now is long term side effects and mortality rate, of which there is very little data to offer potential patients.  This is still a very young advancement in the medical field, and researchers know very little about just how safe it remains years down the road. 

The researchers noted that research beyond two years after bariatric surgery is warranted, in an attempt to monitor adverse effects, development of cardiovascular diseases, and mortality rates.  For now though, the results look promising, and more and more people are beginning to see these types of procedures as a possibility.  The CDC states that in 1996, 3.3 per 100,000 Americans had undergone bariatric surgery, and in 2007, the number had risen to 22.4 per 100,000.         


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