Surgery for obesity is linked to longer survival

January 6, 2015, Group Health Research Institute
Credit: Peter Häger/Public Domain

Obese people seem likely to live longer if they have bariatric surgery (for obesity) than if they don't—with 53 percent lower risk of dying from any cause at five to 14 years after the procedure. So concluded a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) involving 2,500 obese patients and nearly 7,500 matched controls. All of them were receiving care at medical centers across the United States in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health system.

"We expanded what we've been learning and showed that older men in this study do just as well after as younger women in previous studies have done," said David Arterburn, MD, MPH, a Group Health physician and a Group Health Research Institute associate investigator. Dr. Arterburn, who is also an affiliate associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, is the first author of the report, called "Association between bariatric and long-term survival ."

"Previous studies of long-term survival after bariatric surgery involved younger, mostly female populations who tended to have few obesity-related diseases," he said. "In contrast, our study's population was older—with a mean age of 52—and 74 percent male. Also 55 percent of our population had diabetes, and many had other diseases such as , arthritis, heart disease, and depression."

"We also found evidence that bariatric surgery has become safer," said Matthew Maciejewski, PhD, a research career scientist in Health Services Research and Development at the Durham VA and a professor of general internal medicine at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC. "We found that the risk of dying during and soon after bariatric surgery was lower in 2006-2011 than in 2000-2005."

As severe obesity becomes more common, increasing numbers of Americans have been getting bariatric surgery, Dr. Maciejewski noted. Understanding the surgery's long-term outcomes is a research priority for the National Institutes of Health.

"We have tracked a large group of patients for a long enough time that we can clearly see a strong link between bariatric surgery and long-term survival," Dr. Arterburn said. "As time passes, the risk of dying among the patients who've had surgery appears to be diverging from those of the matched controls who haven't had surgery."

With still-longer follow-up, Drs. Arterburn and Maciejewski plan to explore various outstanding questions, such as:

  • Does bariatric surgery help certain subgroups of patients more or less?
  • How long does weight loss last after surgery, and at what level?
  • Is the course of associated diseases, such as diabetes, changed?
  • And do total costs of health care decrease in the long run?

"Our results may have broader implications for encouraging weight loss in general," Dr. Arterburn said. "Despite the studies showing that patients with lower BMIs live longer, not much evidence has linked intentional (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."

Explore further: Post-bariatric surgery weight loss may ease knee pain

More information: Paper doi:10.1001/jama.2014.16968

Related Stories

Post-bariatric surgery weight loss may ease knee pain

December 14, 2014
(HealthDay)—Current evidence, though limited, suggests that bariatric surgery with subsequent marked weight loss may reduce knee complaints in morbidly obese adults, according to research published online Dec. 8 in Obesity ...

How well does bariatric surgery work?

September 2, 2014
The number of bariatric surgeries done each year in the United States has ballooned. Now, in an August 27 state-of-the-art review in The BMJ and a September 3 editorial in JAMA, David Arterburn, MD, MPH, weighs the evidence ...

Dulled sense of taste may boost weight-loss surgery results

November 5, 2014
(HealthDay)—Some people can't taste food as well after undergoing weight-loss surgery, but this side effect may help them shed more weight, new research suggests.

Body contouring after bariatric surgery helps obese patients keep the weight off

October 11, 2014
Patients who have plastic surgery to reshape their bodies after bariatric procedures are able to maintain "significantly greater" weight loss than those who do not have surgery, according to a new study by Henry Ford Hospital ...

Weight loss surgery also safeguards obese people against cancer

June 4, 2014
Weight loss surgery might have more value than simply helping morbidly obese people to shed unhealthy extra pounds. It reduces their risk of cancer to rates almost similar to those of people of normal weight. This is the ...

Warning to bariatric surgery patients: Take your supplements, for eye's sake

December 1, 2014
Obese patients who have undergone bariatric surgery to shed weight should take the supplements prescribed to them to protect their eyes. Taking in too little Vitamin A, in particular, could in some cases actually cause night ...

Recommended for you

Instead of nagging your spouse to lose weight, try going on a diet yourself

February 22, 2018
Tired of nagging your spouse to lose a few pounds? You might get better results by going on a diet yourself.

PFASs, chemicals commonly found in environment, may interfere with body weight regulation

February 13, 2018
A class of chemicals used in many industrial and consumer products was linked with greater weight gain after dieting, particularly among women, according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The chemicals—perfluoroalkyl ...

Study shows benefits of exercise can outweigh health effects of severe obesity

February 12, 2018
Can you be fit and healthy even if you're overweight? That's the question researchers at York University's Faculty of Health set out to answer in a new study that shows physical activity may be equally and perhaps even more ...

Obesity drives US health care costs up by 29 percent, varies by state

February 7, 2018
The prevalence of obesity has risen dramatically in the U.S., but there has been little information about the economic impact of this trend for individual states.

Why diets backfire: A year or more after weight loss, the desire to eat grows stronger

February 2, 2018
Losing weight is, for most people, the easy part. The bigger challenge is trying to keep it off for more than a year.

Scientists identify weight loss ripple effect

February 1, 2018
People who make an effort to lose weight aren't just helping themselves, they may be helping others too.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.