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Is bariatric surgery effective for long-term weight loss?

Bariatric surgery is effective for long-term weight loss. Bariatric surgery alone has been the only proven modality for long-term sustainable weight loss in people who cannot sustain weight loss for very long periods of time. It’s not that people can’t lose weight through diet and exercise alone, it’s simply that they can’t sustain it. It tends to be a cycle where people intermittently work hard at weight loss, with some success, only to relapse and gain all, if not more, of their weight back, only to do it again at a later time (hence the proverbial “roller coaster” of a patient’s weight loss journey).

Dr. James O. Hill
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

There's no question that bariatric surgery works for most people who have it. But research shows that people who have bariatric surgery are no more likely to sustain long-term weight loss than those who lose weight through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes. And those who had surgery report less physical activity, higher rates of depression and stress, and more fast food and fat consumption than those who lost weight without surgery.

For bariatric surgery to be effective for long-term weight loss people have to establish habits that will keep them successful for years to come after weight loss surgery, and for the rest of their lives. People should have a good protein-based diet with very good whole foods -- a heart healthy diet -- and be able to increase their exercise capacity.

It’s heartbreaking to see people go through surgery and do so well, and then they fall back into old habits and are not successful in the long term. Follow up is really important. Participating in a support group is helpful because there are other people who have gone along the same journey and can provide each other support in the long term.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.