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HealthDay does a good job reporting on study of long-term weight loss after bariatric surgery


4 Star


Weight-Loss Surgery Sheds Pounds Long Term

Our Review Summary

Gastric bypass surgeryBariatric surgeries have been identified as perhaps the most successful means for people who are morbidly obese to lose weight, and use of these procedures is increasing, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Information about whether the weight-loss results last, and for how long, is a useful addition to the growing medical literature on these surgeries.

The study described here by HealthDay speaks directly to the issue in a couple of well-designed analyses, and the story does a good job of explaining both the methods and the results. Missing from an otherwise good narrative is information about the risks of these procedures, as well as their costs and overall availability to the general public.


Why This Matters

Obesity is a major health issue in the United States, and the use of bariatric surgical procedures is being used increasingly for those who are morbidly obese. Knowing how long people keep the weight off–and by how much—is useful for those deciding whether to opt into the procedure. Also of interest is if the health benefits, such as remission of type 2 diabetes, were sustained, though this study didn’t appear to investigate that.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Cost is not a component of this story.  That is an issue, as the story compares three weight-loss surgical options for morbidly obese individuals, and readers might well be interested in the economics. Also, it would be useful to discuss the costs of not having surgery in the matched population.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story does a nice job of making the weight loss comparisons—both over time for gastric bypass surgery and across surgical options—clear.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story makes no mention of harms. Bariatric procedures can lead to an array of complications that are worth considering. And on the flip side, it’s worth noting that research also has indicated that bariatric surgery can both extend quantity and quality of life when compared to not having surgery.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


Details of the two-part study conducted here are included and clearly described. And we were also pleased to see several study limitations discussed: “For example, the study included mostly men, so the findings may not apply to women.”

That said, we do wish more had been said about the study participants, such as average body mass index levels before and after the surgeries.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


Morbid obesity is a major and growing health issue with frustratingly few treatment options.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


Sources are clearly identified, along with information about their links to the study itself (one scientist was the study’s lead researcher, and the other quoted in the story was independent).

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


This is another strong point of the story. The study compared the longer term weight-loss outcomes of the three primary bariatric surgical procedures.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story doesn’t make it readily clear how accessible these surgeries are, and who is a good candidate for one. Typically, these procedures are for people over a certain body-mass index, for example. And insurance coverage may or may not pay for it.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story is clear that this study contributes to a growing set of data about long-term weight-loss effects of these surgeries.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Duke Medicine issued a news release, and the HealthDay story does not rely solely on it.

Total Score: 7 of 10 Satisfactory

Comments (2)

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Linda Bacon

September 16, 2016 at 8:39 pm

I was so disappointed with this analysis. You missed a major point: they only reported results for 1/3 of the participants! Since research consistently suggests that people don’t report for follow up if they feel like they failed, this suggests that the majority regained the weight, which is consistent with what is seen in most weight loss studies. That suggests to me that this study actually proved that purported long term weight loss from bariatric surgery is a lie.


    Joy Victory

    September 17, 2016 at 6:03 am

    The story — wisely — pointed the drop-out rate out as a limitation; therefore, there wasn’t a need for us to point it out.

    Drop-out rates are a common limitation across many types of research, not just bariatric surgeries. Here is what they said:

    “At 10 years, the researchers had weight information on 564 of the nearly 1,800 patients who had the gastric bypass.”


    “Another possible limitation was the loss of patients during the follow-up, which could have affected the results, the researchers noted.”