Bariatric or weight-loss surgery may sound like a good option for people who are morbidly obese. And in fact, weight-loss specialists from across the world tout its benefits. It seems that every major medical center has surgeons, internists, dietitians and more dedicated to spreading the gospel on bariatric surgery; specialists who claim that bariatric surgery is the best long-term treatment for people who have failed to lose weight through conventional diet and exercise alone.

Little is known, however, about the long-term effects of bariatric surgery. Up until recently, there have been no long-term or longitudinal studies that have examined outcomes of bariatric surgery. In the December 11, 2013, issue of JAMA, researchers representing the Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery Consortium published findings concerning 2458 people who underwent either gastric bypass, gastric banding (LAP-BAND) or some other bariatric procedure. The results are encouraging.

According to the study, people who received gastric bypass lost, on average, 31.5 percent of their body weight following surgery. People who received the LAP-BAND lost, on average, 15.9 percent of their body weight. Most of the weight loss occurred within one year after surgery. Moreover, among participants who had hypertension and received gastric bypass, 38.2 percent went into remission, and 17.4 percent of those who received gastric banding went into remission. Of note, researchers also found that bariatric surgery helped those with hyperlipidemia (“high cholesterol”) and diabetes.

So, bariatric surgery appears to be a good option for those who are severely obese. It helps with diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol not to mention its psychological benefits including an increased sense of well being and improved ability to complete routine activities of daily living such as walking and bathing.

Going forward it would be useful for researchers to examine bariatric procedures such as the sleeve gastrectomy (“gastric sleeve”), which has become preferred to the LAP-BAND by many surgeons in the know. Whereas the LAP-BAND is a reversible and obstructive procedure that uses a silicone band to restrict consumption of food and induce an early sense of satiety or fullness, the gastric sleeve is a procedure that involves surgical removal of a large portion of the stomach.

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