Bariatric Surgery

The newest and fastest growing medical intervention for obesity is bariatric surgery. This is a life saving procedure for some, but the scientific studies of overall outcomes show quite mixed results.

Looking at one to five year outcomes in Bariatric Surgery and Food Addiction: Preoperative Considerations, Werdell suggests that as many as 30% of bariatric surgery patients may have negative outcomes due to undiagnosed food addiction. For those with advanced diabetes, heart disease and other life threatening medical problems caused by their obesity, bariatric surgery is certainly an important consideration. If all bariatric surgery candidates were in life threatening situations, the 70% success rate would be high in relation to other medical strategies. There are no studies yet distinguishing bariatric surgery patients into categories such as in danger of death, health problems that are not life threatening and elective surgery for cosmetic reasons. However, the negative outcomes for the other thirty percent include reports of no weight loss, substantial weight loss but gaining most of it back within a year, not being able to follow post-surgery eating guidelines, developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs within a year, and a small percentage of death caused by the operation. There are also many secondary physical consequences of bariatric surgery – like dumping syndrome, nutritional malabsorption, lactose intolerance, hair loss – which occur often in surgeries considered successful because of one-to-five year weight loss statistics. Werdell suggests advance screening for a Substance Use Disorder on food and special pre-operative and post-operative support for those who are chemically dependent on food. Bariatric Surgery and Food Addiction ends with case studies of three types of successful food addiction support.

The recent and first study of longer-term outcomes shows that laparoscopic gastric band surgery does not have positive outcomes after five years for about half of those undergoing this procedure. In one third of 151 bariatric surgery patients with gastric bands, the adjustable bands eroded. Moreover, in this sample of patients undergoing surgery between 1994 and 1997, they lost, on average, only 43% of their weight. There was no tracking of all the outcomes, including switching addictions, which might have been due to undiagnosed food addiction. Learn more Here.