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Weight-loss Surgery More Effective than Diet and Exercise in Shedding Pounds, Improving Health

Oct 24, 2013 10:25 AM EDT

Weight-loss surgery is more effective than diet and exercise when it comes to losing weight and improving obesity-related health problems, researchers found.

The study, published in the British Medical Journal, consisted of a meta-analysis of 11 studies and included nearly 800 participants whose body mass index exceeded 30, considered the obesity threshold.

On average, participants who underwent surgery lost 57 pounds more than those who took the nonsurgical route. In terms of benefits, they had a Type 2 diabetes remission rate 22 times higher than the nonsurgical group, and were almost two and a half times more likely to exhibit improvements in regards to metabolic syndrome, which refers to a group of measurements, including hypertension, low levels of LDL and high triglycerides.

As far as side effects, roughly 8 percent of those who underwent bariatric surgery required reoperations, as did 12 percent who underwent adjustable gastric banding. Additionally, three participants developed a hernia and five pneumonia following surgical weight-loss. However, depression was much higher among the non-surgical group at one out of 55, versus one out of 261 for those who were surgically treated.

Overall, those who were asked to rate their quality of life reported greater improvement after surgery when compared to those who pursued weight loss via diet and exercise.

Dr. Joel Zonszein is the director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center. Though not involved with the study, Zonszein told HealthDay the study "represented a careful meta-analysis," adding "I agree with what they've found."

Obesity is one of the greatest public health problems facing industrialized countries today: the number of obese individuals living in the United States, UK and Australia has more than doubled in the past 25 years, the researchers report. Today, 67 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, while most European countries face a prevalence that ranges between 40 and 50 percent.

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