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New Research Indicates Weight Loss Surgery Prolongs Lifespan for Obese

It has long been known that being overweight increases your risk for many serious health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. Now, there’s evidence that weight loss surgery has the potential to do more than simply reduce risk for these conditions—it also may increase lifespan for obese patients.

Obese middle-aged men and women who had bariatric surgery have half the death rate of those who had traditional medical treatment over a 10-year period, according to a study that explored the long-term risks and benefits of weight loss surgery. The study was led by Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and the Clalit Research Institute in Israel, which has one of the highest rates of bariatric surgery in the world. It was published in the January 16 issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“For many years, doctors have known that bariatric surgery can have a positive impact on their patients’ health and quality of life,” said Stephen G. Boyce, M.D., a bariatric surgeon with New Life Center for Bariatric Surgery and medical director of the Tennova Center for Surgical Weight Loss at Turkey Creek Medical Center in Knoxville. “And now, we have evidence that gastric bypass surgery or sleeve gastrectomy helps obese patients live longer.

Dr. Stephen Boyce, Bariatric Surgeon

“In this study, patients who had bariatric surgery had half the death rate, which is significant,” Dr. Boyce said.

The study, based on the electronic health records of an HMO in Israel, looked at detailed data on 33,540 obese individuals for up to a decade. Researchers compared 8,385 people who had the surgery (65 percent women and 35 percent men) to 25,155 who did not. The average age of study participants was 46 years old. They had an average body mass index (BMI) of 40, which is equivalent to being 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 265 pounds.

The rate of death in people who did not have bariatric surgery was 2.3 percent compared to 1.3 percent in those who did. Previous studies looking at longevity were indefinite because follow-up data was limited, due to several factors including patients dropping out.

“This study sheds light on a key outcome of bariatric surgery—longer, healthier lives,” Dr. Boyce said. “While the benefits of weight loss surgery are considerable—such as better control of diabetes or high blood pressure as well as improved mobility and self-esteem—the long-term benefit of a prolonged life is especially significant.”

According to Dr. Boyce, there are several types of bypass procedures, but all of them bypass part of the small intestine that absorbs nutrients. Techniques available at the Tennova Center for Surgical Weight Loss involve stapling off an area of the stomach to create a smaller pouch or surgically removing part of the stomach, both of which create a smaller stomach area. Gastric bypass reduces production of the appetite hormone called Grehlin, making it easier to eat less.

With vertical sleeve gastrectomy, also offered at Tennova, the surgeon removes the left side of the stomach through small incisions, so the remaining stomach is approximately one-tenth of the original size after about one year. This “new” stomach has a much smaller capacity, which means patients feel full or satisfied after eating only a small amount of food. The procedure has also proven to reduce the appetite hormone Grehlin. Less appetite combined with a smaller stomach makes it even easier to eat less food and lose weight.

“Obese individuals—especially those who are more than 100 pounds over their ideal weight—should look at the results of this study and give thoughtful consideration to bariatric surgery,” Dr. Boyce said.

“The research shows that surgery should not be your last resort. Instead, it has the potential to enhance and extend your life.”

If you’ve failed to lose weight through conventional methods, Tennova invites you to attend a free seminar to find out if you are a candidate for weight loss surgery. The seminar outlines the steps that have to be taken to proceed with surgery, and offers you an opportunity to meet with the surgical weight loss team so they can answer any questions you may have.

Weight loss surgery seminars are held on the first and third Thursday of each month, 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at Turkey Creek Medical Center, 10820 Parkside Drive, Knoxville.

For more information or to register for a seminar, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit TennovaWeightLoss.com. Please register at least one day in advance of the seminar.

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