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Obesity surgery cuts heart attacks by a third

Obese patients who undergo bariatric surgery run a 30% lower risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, reveal researchers from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who believe that the priorities for bariatric surgery need to be revised.

Swedish Obese Subjects (SOS) is one of the world’s largest studies of obesity and its health effects. The results produced as part of the study have led to an increase in bariatric surgery in Sweden from just a few hundred operations a year in 1987 to almost 10,000 in 2011.

Now the researchers are presenting new findings which show that bariatric surgery reduces first heart attacks and strokes by around 30%.

Effective against cardiovascular disease
The new report, published on 4 January in the renowned journal JAMA, shows that surgery is equally effective against cardiovascular disease whatever the patient’s degree of obesity.
“Bariatric surgery reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by more or less the same amount in both the moderately and severely obese,” says Lars Sjöström, the researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy behind the SOS study. “But the ones who benefit most from surgery are those with high insulin levels before the operation.”

Changes the criteria
Sjöström believes that these new findings provide further evidence of the benefits of bariatric surgery. They could also lead to changes in the criteria for selecting patients for surgery.
“The degree of obesity is currently the most important factor when deciding whether patients will be offered surgery,” says Sjöström. “If the aim is to select the patients who will benefit most from surgery, priority should instead be given to those with various metabolic disorders, such as high insulin or high blood sugar.”

The article “Bariatric surgery and long-term cardiovascular events” was published in JAMA on 4 January.

SOS is a study comparing mortality and morbidity in obese patients given bariatric surgery and those given conventional treatments for obesity. Around 20 researchers are working on the study, which includes more than 4,000 obese patients. The study began in 1987 and is continuing at 480 health centres and 25 surgical departments in Sweden. The study has previously shown that surgery reduces overall mortality and the risk of developing diabetes and cancer.

For more information, please contact: Lars Sjöström, professor emeritus at the Sahlgrenska Academy and leader of the Swedish Obese Subjects study
Mobile: +46 (0)70 677 8289

Bibliographic data
Title: Bariatric surgery and long-term cardiovascular events
Journal: JAMA on 4 January 2012
Authors: L Sjöström, Peltonen, Karason, Wedel, Bengtsson, Bouchard, Dahögren, Karlsson, Näslund, L. Carlsson

Helena Aaberg | idw
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