Obesity Surgery, Diet, and Exercise

Obesity surgery, diet, and exercise are often set up in subtle and misleading opposition. An excellent new study in the British Medical Journal finds that surgical treatment of obesity leads to greater weight loss and remission of diabetes than non-surgical treatment.

But the headlines go like this: “Surgery trounces diet and exercise for treating obesity and its ills.” That one is from the LA Times, not some tabloid.

The study is a systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies with 796 people. Surgically-treated patients lost a mean of 57 pounds more than non-surgical patients and were 22 times more likely to achieve remission of type 2 diabetes.

Though none of this is a huge surprise, a definitive analysis is good to have in hand. The authors note that follow-up in this analysis is limited to two years. The clinical literature does not lead us to expect that these differences would fade over time.

And it would be good for people to stop talking of surgery as if it excludes changes in diet and exercise.

Click here to read the study in BMJ and here to read more from the LA Times.

Surgery Door, photograph © Paul Stevenson / flickr

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