• Is it okay to go under the knife to save your life? (E+/Getty Images)
Getting bariatric or bypass surgery to control your obesity may seem like a drastic move. But new research suggests that, when dieting fails, going under the knife could improve your health and make you less likely to die in the next four years.
By
Yasmin Noone

23 Jan 2018 - 9:13 AM  UPDATED 23 Jan 2018 - 9:13 AM

Weight loss surgery is by no means a quick or easy fix to cure your state of obesity. But if you’ve been battling obesity for years, trying every diet and exercise program available to no avail, is it a good move to consider a more drastic option to lose weight, in consultation with your doctor and dietician?

In other words, is it okay to go under the knife to save your life?

According to an international study and released this month, yes – if you meet the required medical and psychological conditions, getting bariatric surgery could reduce your risk of dying from poor health in the short-term.

Researchers found that the bypass surgery improved the patient’s blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure control five years after the procedure.

The Israeli study, published in the JAMA, compared 24,000 obese people, some of whom had bariatric surgery, and found those who did were less likely to die within the next four and a half years after the procedure.

The findings revealed that obese patients who underwent we bariatric surgery had a lower rate of death from any cause compared with obese adults who received nonsurgical care – dietary counselling and behaviour changes – to manage their obesity.

Bariatric surgery provided included laparoscopic banding, a gastric bypass, or laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.

“The rate of death from any cause over about 4.5 years was lower among obese patients who underwent bariatric surgery compared with patients who managed their obesity with nonsurgical care,” the study reads.

Yes, your genes can make you crazy hungry
There's more to your weight than what you eat and how much you exercise.

In the second related study conducted by the same researchers, also published in JAMA, obese patients with type 2 diabetes who had gastric bypass surgery were observed.

Researchers found that the bypass surgery improved the patient’s blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure control five years after the procedure.

However, the rate of improvement seemed to decline over time. The researchers concluded that although gastric bypass surgery is effective at reducing an obese person’s related risk of diabetes, it’s unknown whether the effects will last beyond the five years tested in the study.

Lifestyle and diet changes v surgery: what you need to know

Obesity is a major health problem in Australia. Figures from the National Health Survey estimate that almost two-in-three adults are overweight or obese.

Going under the knife, however, does sound like a drastic option to achieve weight loss and a reduction in your diabetes risk. Dietitian Association of Australia spokesperson Charlene Grosse reassures people battling the bulge that medically advised obesity surgery will be a valid option for some people. But, she explains, it should only ever be considered as a last resort.

“Obesity surgery can play an important role in aiding weight loss in severely obese people, where diet and lifestyle approaches have not been sufficient in achieving long-term weight loss,” says Grosse, an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian.

“On average people undergoing weight loss surgery lost 50 per cent of their excess weight at the three-year mark.

“The Australian Bariatric Surgery Registry has [also] identified 38 per cent of people no longer identified as having diabetes 12 months after surgery (predominately sleeve gastrectomy procedure).”

Forget weight loss fads - your diet won't work anyway
There's a good reason why you feel like you're always watching your weight or being cautious about what you eat: diets don't work over the long-term. So save yourself the calorie counting obsessions.

That’s not to say that once you get surgery, you will never have to diet again. On the contrary, Grosse says: “this approach is only effective in the long-term when used in conjunction with healthy eating and regular exercise”.

“Like diets, surgery is not a quick fix and requires positive dietary changes to be made. Weight loss surgery changes how much someone can eat but does not change the psychology of eating.

“If a person eats the high calorie, nutrient poor foods or does not eat they are at risk of long-term nutritional deficiencies (particularly with the sleeve gastrectomy and gastric bypass).”

“Like diets, surgery is not a quick fix and requires positive dietary changes to be made. Weight loss surgery changes how much someone can eat but does not change the psychology of eating."

Grosse explains that weight loss usually peaks after 12-18 months of surgery, and patients should expect to regain some weight after this time if they increase their intake of alcohol, constantly graze on food and don't do any physical activity.

“Achieving long-term weight loss relies on weight management strategies being continued after bariatric surgery has occurred.”

Grosse advises anyone who wants to lose weight to visit their GP and a qualified dietician to obtain medical advice that is specific to them. 

Get the facts on obesity in Australia
Are low-fat foods making us fat?
Experts have long championed low-fat options for those looking to lose weight, but research now suggests these foods could actually be contributing to obesity. So what should we be eating?
Eat well: There’s no hope of halting the obesity crisis over the next decade
By 2025, nearly one-fifth of adults worldwide will be seriously overweight.
How to lose weight when diet and exercise don't work
In the one-hour documentary The Diet Myth, leading geneticists, science journalists, microbiologists, anthropologists and obesity experts share their findings into how bacteria and gut health affect our eating habits and waistline.
Surge in obesity and diabetes could be linked to food additives
Additives found in your favourite foods, like ice cream, may be linked to obesity, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disorders.
Is obesity caused by a clinical addiction?
A new Australian-led study has shown that a person who becomes obese because they ‘overeat’ may actually have a clinical addiction to food that is high in fat and sugar.
Eat well: The social factors behind obesity
Most people know the causes of obesity – high energy intake and low physical activity – but that doesn't mean they're in a position to put healthy habits into practice.