Is weight-loss surgery the best way to manage obesity?

Rosedale Suspension Bridge in Rosedale, AB. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Rosedale Suspension Bridge in Rosedale, AB. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

Much has been written and discussed about obesity but we are nowhere close to solving the problem. In fact, the problem is getting worse.

Many factors can contribute to excess weight gain including genetics, a person’s eating pattern, physical inactivity, and sleep routines.

A person whose BMI (body mass index) is greater than or equal to 25 is considered overweight.

A person whose BMI is greater than or equal to 30 is considered obese.

Why non-surgical methods of managing obesity have failed?

As we know to lose weight one has to eat less, eat healthy and exercise regularly. But due to various reasons most people are unable to follow this rule. Those who religiously follow the rules do succeed in losing weight. But the success doesn’t last for too long. Old habits die hard.

In 2003, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that if you can get people to reduce how much food they eat by about 25 per cent, and you get them to do at least 30 to 40 minutes of exercise five days a week, you can achieve a weight loss of nine per cent. This means a 200-pound person could lose about 20 pounds and successfully maintain it for at least a year. We don’t know how many people maintain this after one year.

Is weight-loss surgery the answer?

Surgery for obesity is called bariatric surgery (from the Greek words “baros,” meaning weight, and “iatrikos,” meaning medicine).

The first weight-loss surgery performed was a gastric bypass surgery in 1954 by Dr. A.J. Kremen. Over the past 65-years, many medical advances in bariatric surgery have occurred. In the last 25-years, the procedure has gained popularity with patients.

Following bariatric surgery, patients lose about 62 to 70 per cent of excess weight and maintain this loss for more than five years. However, this can also result in nutritional and vitamin deficiencies.

Bariatric surgery can have significant health benefits in addition to weight loss, including improvement in cardiovascular risk factors, fatty liver disease, diabetes management, and reduction in mortality.

A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Surgery (Five-year outcomes after surgery for class 1 obesity: a retrospective analysis of a Canadian bariatric centre’s experience, by Studer et al, November 16, 2022) concludes bariatric surgery for class 1 obesity was safe and had long-term efficacy, with remission or reduction of related comorbidities. Class 1 obesity is a person with BMI of 30 to <35.

“Our results show that bariatric/metabolic surgery has long-term efficacy, with reduction or remission of related comorbidities, and is an effective treatment modality for patients with class 1 obesity,” says the article. This was a retrospective chart review of patients with class 1 obesity who underwent different types of gastric bypass surgeries.

The authors conclude that bariatric surgery is safe treatment modality for class 1 obesity, with an acceptably low postoperative morbidity rate of 2.7 per cent and no deaths.

Weight-loss success after surgery depends on individual’s commitment to making lifelong changes in eating and exercise habits. This requirement is same if one decides not to have surgery. Post-op complications are rare but can be serious like pulmonary embolism, anastomotic leaks or respiratory failure. A person may experience dumping syndrome, low blood sugar, malnutrition, vomiting and bowel obstruction.

All surgical procedures have advantages and likely complications. A person with obesity with medical issues has a choice and decision to make. Long-term success depends on one’s ability to follow guidelines for diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.

Is bariatric surgery the best way to manage obesity? Bariatric surgery is not a cure for obesity but rather a tool to help one lose weight.

The other option is to reduce daily diet by 25 per cent and do 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Worth trying!

Start reading the preview of my book A Doctor's Journey for free on Amazon. Available on Kindle for $2.99!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: Dr. Noorali Bharwani and Noorali Bharwani Professional Corporation do not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, completeness or timeliness of the information found at this site or the sites listed here and do not otherwise endorse the information contained in them. Dr. Noorali Bharwani and Noorali Bharwani Professional Corporation assume no responsibility or liability for damages arising from any error or omission or from the use of any information or advice contained in this site or sites listed here. The information provided here is for general knowledge. For individual health problems seek the advice of your doctor.