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Which Weight Loss Method Provides More Benefits With Less Weight Lost?

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Bariatric surgery differs in weight loss benefits compared to dieting.

Pound for pound, which do you think provides more health benefits: weight loss surgery or dieting? A new study found a surprising finding that may help you decide which method to take for losing weight.


A recent news release from the Cleveland Clinic reports that a study published in the journal Annals of Surgery, shows that there is a difference in health benefits when choosing between bariatric surgery and dieting.

According to the release, 223 patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes who underwent bariatric surgery were matched against 5,978 patients who lost weight through dieting and exercise. Both groups combined consisted of patients who were largely hypertensive, had elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, with roughly nearly one-third taking insulin to treat their diabetes.

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The focus of the study was to determine the least amount of weight a patient needed to lose in order to decrease their risk of dying from metabolic-related conditions such as adverse cardiovascular events, coronary artery events, cerebrovascular events, heart failure, kidney disease, and atrial fibrillation.

What the data showed was that there is a difference between the minimum amounts of weight needed to lower their risks when undergoing weight loss through either surgery or through dieting.

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“Following metabolic surgery, the risk of death and major heart complications appears to decrease after about 5 percent and 10 percent weight loss, respectively. Whereas, in the nonsurgical group, both the risk of death and major cardiovascular complications decreased after losing approximately 20 percent of body weight,” said Ali Aminian, M.D., director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric & Metabolic Institute, and lead author of the study.

These surprising findings could indicate that there is something more to weight loss surgery not provided by dieting when losing weight for improved fitness and health.

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The study’s senior-author Steve Nissen, M.D., stated that, “This study suggests greater heart disease benefits are achieved with less weight loss following metabolic surgery than medical weight loss using lifestyle interventions. The study findings suggest that there are important benefits of metabolic surgery independent of the weight loss achieved.”

In fact, this is not the first time similar results have been observed with weight loss achieved via surgical methods. The release also refers to an earlier large study that showed weight-loss surgery is associated with a 40 percent reduction in risk of death and heart complications in patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

While the causes behind the results are not as of yet clearly identified, researchers are investigating the possibility that physiological changes in the surgically modified gastrointestinal tract, and the impact on hormone secretion and the microbiome may be responsible for the benefits of metabolic surgery, independent of weight loss.

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Timothy Boyer has a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University of Arizona. For 20+ years he has been employed as a freelance health and science writer. Today, with an eye on the latest news, Timothy continues writing about science with a focus on what you need to know for healthier living. For continual updates about health, you can also follow Timothy on Twitter at TimBoyerWrites.

Image Source: Courtesy of Arek Socha from Pixabay


Cleveland Clinic Study Identifies Weight-Loss Threshold for Cardiovascular and Survival Benefits in Patients with Obesity and Diabetes” Cleveland Clinic news release September 23, 2020.

How Much Weight Loss is Required for Cardiovascular Benefits? Insights From a Metabolic Surgery Matched-cohort Study” Ali Aminian et al, Annals of Surgery 2020 Oct;272(4):639-645.