“Bariatric surgery is probably the most effective intervention we have in health care,” says Laurie K. Twells, a clinical epidemiologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She bases this bold claim on her experience with seriously obese patients and a detailed analysis of the best studies yet done showing weight-loss surgery’s ability to reverse the often devastating effects of being extremely overweight on health and quality of life.
“I haven’t come across a patient yet who wouldn’t recommend it,” Dr. Twells said in an interview. “Most say they wish they’d done it 10 years sooner.” She explained that the overwhelming majority of patients who undergo bariatric surgery have spent many years trying — and failing — to lose weight and keep it off. And the reason is not a lack of willpower.
“These patients have lost hundreds of pounds over and over again,” Dr. Twells said. “The weight that it takes them one year to lose is typically back in two months,” often because a body with longstanding obesity defends itself against weight loss by drastically reducing its metabolic rate, an effect not seen after bariatric surgery, which permanently changes the contours of the digestive tract.
In reviewing studies that followed patients for five to 25 years after weight-loss surgery, Dr. Twells and colleagues found major long-lasting benefits to the patients’ health and quality of life. Matched with comparable patients who did not have surgery, those who did fared much better physically, emotionally and socially. They rated themselves as healthier and were less likely to report problems with mobility, pain, daily activities, social interactions and feelings of depression and anxiety, among other factors that can compromise well-being.
Equally important are the undeniable medical benefits of surgically induced weight loss. They include normalizing blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipid levels and curing sleep apnea. Although bariatric surgery cannot cure Type 2 diabetes, it nearly always puts the disease into remission and slows or prevents the life-threatening damage it can cause to the heart and blood vessels.
Even in the small percentage of patients who ultimately lose little weight after surgery, significant metabolic benefits persist, according to findings at the Cleveland Clinic. In a study of 31 obese diabetic patients who had not lost a lot of excess weight five to nine years after surgery, a “modest” weight loss of just 5 to 10 percent resulted in a reduction of cardiovascular risk factors and blood sugar abnormalities, Dr. Stacy Brethauer and colleagues reported.
For the two most popular surgical techniques — the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve — “the metabolic benefits are independent of weight loss,” Dr. Brethauer said in an interview. Both methods permanently reduce the size of the stomach. However, the gastric band procedure, which is reversible, lacks these benefits unless patients achieve and maintain significant weight loss, he said.
Furthermore, as a study last year of 2,500 surgical patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C., found, those who underwent bariatric surgery had lower overall death rates up to 14 years later than comparable patients who did not have weight-loss surgery.
Check out the other half of this great article on The New York Times here: http://nyti.ms/2lo3wEy