TUESDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Obese people who undergo weight loss surgery appear to reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke and death, Swedish researchers report.
And these heart-health benefits seem to be connected with metabolic changes that occur after the surgery, such as altered insulin production, rather than the weight loss, the researchers say.
"Bariatric surgery is associated with about 30 percent reduction both in the incidence of heart attack and stroke," said lead researcher Dr. Lars Sjostrom, a professor at the University of Gothenburg's Institute of Medicine.
"Body mass index before the operation does not predict the surgical treatment effect, while insulin concentration before surgery is strongly related to future benefit," he said.
Bariatric surgery involves altering the stomach in order to reduce the amount of food consumed or digested. Given these new findings, some experts think the criteria for the operations should include more than body mass index (BMI), a measurement that takes into account height and weight.
"Before, we thought surgery was a shortcut for patients who didn't have the willpower to lose weight on their own," said Dr. Francesco Rubino, chief of gastrointestinal metabolic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. However, for patients with uncontrolled diabetes or heart disease, surgery might be life-saving, he said.
"I don't think a BMI cutoff should disqualify patients," Rubino said. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
The study, started in 1987 and reported in the Jan. 4 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first prospective study to show these cardiovascular benefits from weight loss surgery, the researchers said.
Sjostrom's team, using the Swedish Obese Subjects study, looked at data on more than 2,000 study participants who underwent
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