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Obesity Surgery Found to Decrease Risk of Death


Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and a new study says the rates of obesity continue to rise in the United States. Obesity is also on the rise throughout much of the world. While gastric bypass surgery -- or stomach stapling -- may not be for everyone, new research shows it can improve the health of many obese people. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.

Severe obesity increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes as well as other diseases. Now, two new studies find that stomach bypass surgery can reverse many obesity-related health problems and even add years to people's lives. The surgery involves making the stomach about the size of an egg and creating a short cut with the intestine so the body uses less food.

Dr. David Flum from the University of Washington has researched the risks of this surgery. He says, "The operation provides patients with the opportunity to lose tremendous amounts of weight in a very short period of time." Dr. Flum concluded that the surgery was riskier than having open-heart surgery for elderly and very ill patients.

But two new studies find that those who had stomach bypass surgery reduced their risk of death over a seven-year period. For those who had the surgery, researchers found: death from heart disease decreased by about 50 percent; death from diabetes declined by 92 percent; and even cancer deaths dropped by 60 percent compared to a control group that did not have the surgery.

Another recent study [June 2007] looked at teenagers who had obesity surgery. It found teens do very well with this surgery. Their complication rate is roughly half that for adults. Because the surgery is so successful in reducing diabetes, some doctors now recommend it as a treatment for the disease. Others are more cautious.

The surgery reduces stomach size, so people who have it eat less, but it also increases the risk for vitamin deficiencies. We still don't know the long-term effects of living this way for many decades.

Video courtesy of The Journal of The American Medical Association

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