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After 12 years, those who had gastric bypass surgery:

  • Weighed an average of 77 pounds less than they did at surgery
  • Maintained a 27-percent loss in weight compared to time of surgery
  • More than half of those with type 2 diabetes no longer had the disease
Patients see long-term weight loss and diabetes remission

New research coauthored by a BYU professor shows that 12 years after gastric bypass surgery, significant weight loss and diabetes-related benefits persist in most patients. Those benefits include remission and prevention of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and fewer cholesterol problems.

The study, newly published in The New England Journal of Medicine, is one of the largest and longest follow-up evaluations of the medical procedure to date.

“This study shows the long-term durability of weight loss following gastric bypass surgery,” said Lance Davidson, BYU professor of exercise science. “Only 1 percent, four out of the 400 people who had the surgery in the study, gained back their original weight 12 years later.”

According to the study, after 12 years, patients weighed an average of 77 pounds less than they did before the surgery. Perhaps even more importantly, half of those with type 2 diabetes no longer had the condition 12 years after the operation.

A total of 1,156 patients were tracked and evaluated, broken down into three groups: 418 people who sought out and underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, 417 who sought out the surgery but insurance would not pay for it, and 321 patients who did not seek surgery. The patients had follow up clinical examinations two, six and 12 years down the road.

Researchers found those in the non-surgical groups saw very little change in body weight over 12 years, while those who had the surgery lost 35 percent of their weight at two years, 28 percent at six years and 27 percent at the 12-year mark. For those who had diabetes prior to getting the operation, 75 percent had a remission of their diabetes at two years and 51 percent were still in remission at 12 years.

The study provides resounding evidence that gastric bypass surgery is not only a bariatric (treatment of obesity) surgery, but a metabolic (diabetes related) surgery.

“The duration of the metabolic effect is astounding,” Davidson said. “The findings on the surgery’s long-term effect on diabetes is further evidence that gastric bypass surgery is an excellent treatment for type 2 diabetes, and not simply to reduce obesity.”

The study findings also support previous research that shows greater success rates of diabetes remission in surgery patients who are in the early stages of the disease. They found a staggering 73 percent of patients who received the surgery before taking medication or treating with insulin injections remained in remission.

“If you really want to stop diabetes in its tracks, get this procedure early,” added study co-author Paul Hopkins, professor of Internal Medicine at University of Utah Health.

Researchers said the study strongly reinforces the need for access to the procedure as an essential service, rather than looking at it as an elective operation.

The NIH-funded study was a joint effort by Intermountain Healthcare, the University of Utah School of Medicine, St. Mark’s Hospital and the Rocky Mountain Associated Physicians. Intermountain Healthcare researcher Ted Adams is lead author with Lance Davidson serving as second author. Steven Hunt from the University of Utah School of Medicine is also a primary investigator.