Bariatric surgery is more effective than diet and exercise, when it comes to weight loss and combatting Type 2 diabetes, according to a new analysis of studies published in the British Medical Journal.
But the researchers noted the evidence on the long-term benefits of weight-loss surgery is less definitive.
"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," said the researchers. "[But] the evidence beyond two years of follow-up, in particular on adverse events, cardiovascular diseases, and mortality remains unclear."
Bariatric surgery is typically performed on people who are obese for whom other weight-loss strategies have not been successful. Procedures can include reducing the size of the stomach with a surgical band (gastric banding), re-routing the small intestines to a small stomach pouch (gastric bypass), or removing a portion of the stomach (sleeve gastrectomy).
For the new study, a team of international researchers reviewed 11 clinical trials involving 796 obese individuals. The results showed people who underwent bariatric surgery lost more body weight, compared with such non-surgical approaches as modifying their diet and exercise. Surgery patients also had higher remission rates of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of developing heart diseases and diabetes).
After surgery, patients also reported greater improvements in quality of life measures, as well as greater reductions in medication use, than non-surgical patients.
Currently, two-thirds of the U.S. population is either overweight or obese, and in most European countries, levels are between 40 percent and 50 percent, the researchers noted.
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