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Gastric Bypass Surgery Adds Years of Life

Weight Loss Surgery and Life Expectancy


Updated September 13, 2007

For those who are obese, gastric bypass can reduce the risk of death by 40% over a 7-year period, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gastric Bypass Benefits: The Research

The study examined the medical records of almost 10,000 gastric bypass patients, from 1984 to 2002, and compared them to data from almost 10,000 severely obese persons who had applied for driver’s licenses.

Researchers matched individuals in each group based on age, sex, and BMI--this is a way to ensure that these other factors don't play into the results. They then looked up each individual in the National Death Index to learn about any deaths that occurred over a 7-year period.

The Findings

People who underwent gastric bypass surgery had a 40% reduction in the rate of death compared to their obese counterparts. More specifically, they had a 56% reduction in death from coronary artery disease, a 92% reduction in death from diabetes, and a 60% reduction in death from cancer.

Oddly, the group that had gastric bypass surgery had a 58% increased risk of death by injuries, suicide and other non-disease causes.

Benefits of Gastric Bypass Surgery

A second study enrolled more than 4,000 obese participations. About half of those people underwent bariatric surgery (the most common type of which is gastric bypass surgery), and the other half were given non-surgical treatment. The participants were followed for an average of 10.9 years.

This study found that the non-surgery subjects had less than a 2% change in body weight over the follow-up period. The bariatric surgery group, on the other hand, reported large changes in body weight:

  • Gastric Bypass patients lost an average of 32%
  • Vertical-banded gastroplasty patients lost an average of 25%
  • Banding patients lost an average of 20%

After 10 years, these patients were able to keep the weight off. Ten years post-surgery:

  • Gastric bypass patients were 25% of their pre-surgery weight.
  • Vertical-banded gastroplasty patients were 16% of their pre-surgery weight.
  • Banding patients were 14% of their pre-surgery weight.

Studies have shown that a weight loss of 12% can reduce diabetes risk. The people in the surgery group were 24% less likely to die over a ten-year period.

The Bottom Line

These findings emphasis the health benefits of losing weight. Obesity is linked to dramatic increases in the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Losing weight can dramatically reduce those risks, as seen in this study.

Gastric bypass surgery is an option for people who have not been able to lose weight through lifestyle modifications. Once weight is reduced, controlling blood sugar, high blood pressure and other health conditions becomes much easier.

Another outcome of these studies may be the lowering of the BMI threshold for gastric bypass surgery. Until these studies came out, there was no solid evidence that gastric bypass surgery increased life expectancy. Now that that evidence exists, we may see gastric bypass surgery recommendations being made for more and more people.


Adams TD, et al. Long-Term Mortality after Gastric Bypass Surgery. New England Journal of Medicine. Vol. 357:753-761. August 23, 2007, Number 8.

Bray GA. The Missing Link – Lose Weight, Live Longer. Vol. 357:818-820. August 23, 2007, Number 8.

Sjostrom L, et al. Effects of Bariatric Surgery on Mortality in Swedish Obese Subjects. Vol. 357:741-752. August 23, 2007, Number 8.

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