To those who work with weight loss surgery patients every day, it is clear that these procedures improve the quality of life and health. Additionally, a long-term study following 2500 weight loss surgery patients found that having surgery reduces the risk of death years later. While weight loss surgery is generally considered the best treatment option for severely obese people, so far most studies have not followed enough people for long enough to show if surgery helps improve health in the long-run. This new study found that 6% of the surgery patients had died of all causes five years after surgery, compared with 10% of similar patients who hadn’t had surgery. At 10 years after-surgery 14% of people who had surgery had died, compared with 24% of those who had not had bariatric surgery.
Study author, Dr. David E. Arterburn of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle commented, “our results may have broader implications for encouraging weight loss in general. Despite the studies showing that patients with lower BMIs live longer, not much evidence has linked intentional weight loss – from surgery, medication or diet and exercise – with longer survival. But our results, combined with other studies of bariatric surgery, may help to make that case.”
Of note, most of the patients were men, with an average age of 52, and a body mass index (BMI) of 47. They were more likely to have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other problems associated with obesity. Most of the surgery patients had gastric bypass surgery, while 15% had sleeve gastrectomy, and 10% had Lap-Band surgery. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
We spoke with Dr. Marina Kurian, expert weight loss surgeon in New York, about the findings. She said, “Many patients come to weight loss surgery because they want to be around for the kids or grand-kids or to reduce the number of medications and improve their overall health. This long term study highlights the decrease in mortality that weight loss surgery confers on patients, something that seems intuitive but having the data solidifies the message.”