The study, from Stanford University, discovered that weight-loss surgery may be most effective in people with a lower BMI. Researchers reviewed the results of 981 patients who underwent bariatric surgery. The starting BMIs of the patients ranged from below 35 to above 50. Those who had lower BMIs had better outcomes after surgery, including greater weight loss and better diabetes remission rates. In fact, patients with a BMI of 35 or lower experienced a 100 percent remission rate from type 2 diabetes, while patients with a BMI higher than 35 experienced a diabetes remission rate of only 75 percent.
Weight-loss surgery has previously been reserved for patients who qualify as morbidly obese, with a BMI of 40 or above. However, the FDA recently approved the use of adjustable gastric banding, or the Lap-Band System, for patients who have a BMI of 30 or above along with a related medical condition. This change in policy made it possible for researchers to study the effects of early surgical intervention for obesity.
"This initial study suggests the sooner we can treat morbid obesity and obesity-related conditions, the greater the chances the patients will have better results without any differences in complications," said Dr. John Morton, a co-author of the study.
Other bariatric experts, however, are more cautious and note that more research is needed before surgery should be considered a viable intervention for patients who are classified as obese or severely obese.
The study findings were presented in June at the annual meeting of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery.