Weight Loss Surgery: Is It Worth the Trouble? What the Results Say

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Nearly 72% of American adults over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese.

Being overweight or obese not only affects your self-esteem, but it also puts you at a higher risk for serious diseases and health conditions. Although exercise and a healthy diet may help, many people struggle to lose significant amounts of weight using this method alone.

If you struggle with weight that’s resistant to diet and exercise, weight loss surgery may be an option for you. But deciding between your weight loss surgery options takes some research.

Keep reading to learn about your options and the results they achieve.

What is Weight Loss Surgery?

Weight loss surgery is also known as bariatric surgery. These surgical procedures help you lose weight when even the most extreme weight loss tips don’t work. They help you lose weight in two ways.

First, they restrict the amount of food you can eat. By making your digestive system smaller in different ways, you’re not able to hold as much food. That results in a significantly reduced caloric intake.

The other ways in which they help you lose weight is through malabsorption. Some of these surgeries will shorten or bypass the small intestine. The result is that fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed by the body.

Weight Loss Surgery Options

There are four types of weight loss surgery. We describe each in more detail below and discuss the potential pros and cons. 

Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass

In a gastric bypass procedure, a small pouch is created at the top of the stomach. The small intestine is cut just below the main stomach and connected to the pouch.

After surgery, the new pouch is where your food goes. Because it’s much smaller than your stomach, the pouch puts a limit on how much you can eat and drink. The changes to the small intestine also result in fewer nutrients and calories being absorbed. 

Pros

This surgery results in more substantial weight loss than a gastric band, which we’ll discuss in more detail next. You also don’t have any foreign objects placed in your body in order to help you lose weight.

Cons

On the negative side of this surgery is the fact that it’s difficult to reverse. There’s also a higher risk of surgery-related problems than if you had a gastric band. 

Because fewer nutrients are absorbed by the small intestine, this type of surgery may lead to a vitamin deficiency. It’s also linked to an increased risk for alcohol use disorder.

Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding

Gastric banding involves placing a band with an inflatable balloon around the stomach. Fixed in place around the upper section of the stomach, this creates a narrow opening to the stomach.

Because the opening is much smaller than your regular stomach, you feel full sooner and you’re not able to hold as much food. Without changes to the intestine, this type of weight loss surgery doesn’t restrict the nutrients and calories being absorbed.

Pros

Gastric banding doesn’t involve any incisions or changes to your stomach or intestinal system. As such, the surgery is relatively low-risk and only requires a short hospital stay.

Gastric banding can also be reversed or adjusted if needed. It also carries very little risk of a vitamin or nutrients shortage.

Cons

A gastric band needs constant adjustment, which requires frequent follow-up visits to the doctor. It’s also possible that you don’t adapt to the band. In those cases, you may have to undergo a second surgery to remove or replace the band system.

In comparison, gastric banding also results in less weight loss than the other types of weight loss surgery.

Sleeve Gastrectomy

In this form of weight loss surgery, a part of the stomach is removed. What remains is formed into a tubelike shape that doesn’t hold as much food.

In addition, a sleeve gastrectomy causes the body to produce less ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for your appetite. Meaning, you won’t feel as hungry, as often.

Pros

A sleeve gastrectomy involves a short stay in the hospital, no changes to the intestine, and no foreign objects placed inside your body. It also produces greater weight loss than a gastric band.

Cons

In comparison to a gastric band surgery, sleeve gastrectomy has a higher chance of surgery-related problems. It can result in a vitamin shortage as well as the development of acid reflux. This type of surgery also can’t be reversed.

Duodenal Switch With Biliopancreatic Diversion

This type of weight loss surgery actually involves two surgeries. The first surgery is like a gastric sleeve surgery and the second surgery shortens the small intestine.

The result is a smaller stomach and food bypassing most of the small intestine. This means you won’t be able to eat as much food and your body will absorpt fewer calories and nutrients. 

Pros

Of all the weight loss surgeries, this leads to the most weight loss.

Cons

While it leads to the most significant weight loss, it also carries a higher risk for surgery-related problems. Many surgeons won’t perform this type of surgery due to the risk of complications.

Which Is the Best Weight Loss Surgery?

In one comprehensive study, researchers sought to find out which type of weight loss surgery was best. They looked at 46,000 patients that had either gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, or adjustable gastric banding. The results were as follows:

  • Gastric bypass. After one year, patients lost an average of 31% of total body weight. After 5 years, patients lost an average of 25% of total body weight.
  • Sleeve gastrectomy. After one year, patients lost an average of 25% of total body weight. After 5 years, patients lost an average of 19% of total body weight.
  • Adjustable gastric banding. After one year, patients lost an average of 14% of total body weight. After 5 years, patients lost an average of 12% of total body weight.

The results demonstrate that gastric bypass surgery was the best weight loss surgery in term of total body weight lost.

However, this procedure also has the highest rates of post-surgery complications. In fact, the rate of serious complication 30 days following surgery was almost double what it was for a sleeve gastrectomy. These complications include reoperation/repair, blood clots, and even death.

Deciding between the types of weight loss surgery involves a careful balancing of the pros and cons. As a first-hand account of pre and post-surgery, reading patient testimonials may also help you in making this important decision.

More On Your Health

There are four types of weight loss surgery, each with their own pros and cons.

While gastric bypass has been shown to be the most effective for weight loss, it also carries the highest rate of complication. This is why choosing the weight loss surgery that’s right for you means consulting with a medical professional who can offer you the best option for your lifestyle.

And for more information on your health, diet, and lifestyle, check out our blog.

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