People turn to bariatric surgery when most weight loss methods have failed, relying on surgery to lose weight and improve their health. According to a study, going under the knife for weight loss reasons actually extends the lifespans of severely obese adults.

David Arterburn, M.D., M.P.H. and colleagues tracked 2,500 individuals who underwent bariatric surgery and almost 7,500 matched controls part of the Veterans Affairs health system between 2000 and 2011. Those who got bariatric surgery were 52 years old on average and were classified as severely obese with mean body mass indexes of 47, while matched control patients averaged 53 years old, with BMIs of 46.

Out of those who received bariatric procedures, 74 percent underwent gastric bypass while 10 percent got adjustable gastric binding and 15 percent sleeve gastrectomy. A percent of the surgical subjects underwent procedures outside of these three.

At the end of the study, 263 deaths were reported in surgical patients while the matched control group logged 1,277. Mortality rates were estimate at 2.4 percent on the first year, 6.4 percent after five years and 13.8 percent after 10 years for those who got bariatric surgery. Matched control patients, on the other hand, recorded mortality rates of 1.7 percent on the first year, 10.4 percent after five years and 23.9 percent after 10 years.

As these numbers would show, the positive effects of bariatric surgery became more evident after five and 10 years of undergoing the procedure.

"Among obese patients receiving care in the VA health system, those who underwent bariatric surgery compared with matched control patients who did not have surgery had lower all-cause mortality at 5 years and up to 10 years following the procedure. These results provide further evidence for the beneficial relationship between surgery and survival that has been demonstrated in younger, predominantly female populations," concluded the researchers.

"Our results may have broader implications for encouraging weight loss in general. Despite the studies showing that patients with lower BMIs live longer, not much evidence has linked intentional weight loss (from surgery, medication, or diet and exercise) with longer survival. But our results, combined with other studies of bariatric surgery, may help to make that case," said Arterburn.

Aside from Arterburn, other authors for the study include: Matthew Maciejewski, Ph.D., Hollis Weidenbacher, Ph.D., George Eid, M.D., William Yancy, Jr., M.D., MHSc, Lynn Van Scoyoc, Edward Livingston, M.D., M.S., Valerie Smith, M.S. and Maren Olsen, Ph.D.

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