Bariatric surgery may substantially lower the risk of heart attacks, strokes and other major forms of cardiovascular disease, in addition to helping patients lose weight, according to new research published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Analyzing the electronic health records over eight years of 13,722 obese patients with Type 2 diabetes and other high-risk health problems, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that those who had bariatric surgery—also known as metabolic or weight-loss surgery—were 39% less likely to experience a heart- or stroke-related event than those who had standard medical care. The surgery patients were also 41% less likely to die from any cause.
Those effects were huge, said
a bariatric surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic and lead author.
The study was observational, he cautioned, meaning that it showed an association, but not that the surgery caused the effects. “The findings need to be tested in a randomized clinical trial,” Dr. Aminian said.
Still, the study adds to previous research suggesting that bariatric surgery may be an effective treatment for severe, costly chronic conditions in people with excess weight and diabetes, experts said. Studies over more than two decades have shown that bariatric surgery can rid some patients of their diabetes, or help them get off certain medications.
“This is an important contribution to the growing body of evidence showing that substantial weight loss, such as that produced by bariatric surgery, can reduce severe illness and death in people with excess weight and diabetes,” said
chief of endocrinology and metabolism for the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“It’s a pretty impressive reduction in those cardiac risks—not a borderline finding at all,” said
chief of the division of general and bariatric surgery at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. “It makes you wonder why we don’t have wider adoption of these treatments.” He is president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and wasn’t involved in the study.