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Diet and Exercise Remain Critically Important after Weight Loss Surgery


Many people enter the process of weight loss surgery with the promise of a smaller body and much improved health. But gastric bypass in and of itself is not the answer to ultimate weight loss success. Diet and exercise remain critically important after bariatric surgery for long-term weight maintenance. Wake Forest University researchers have launched a study to show that the follow-up care that a patient receives is just as important as the weight loss surgery itself.

More than Half of Gastric Bypass Patients Regain a Significant Portion of Weight Lost

Gastric bypass surgery is the most frequently performed bariatric surgery in the United States. Each year, more than 200,000 people undergo bariatric surgery, up from a little more than 100,000 in 2003. By most estimates, 80% of patents do well after surgery, losing at least 50% of their excess weight and seeing significant improvements to conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. But unfortunately, more than half of patients will regain at least some of the weight lost.

The surgery is performed by creating a small pouch out of the larger stomach which is then connected to the middle part of the smaller intestine. The result is a smaller area to receive consumed food and bypassing the upper portion of the small intestine reduces the amount of food digested and absorbed into the body. Consequently, the number of calories eaten is significantly lower, resulting in rapid weight loss.

Read: Gastric Bypass Surgery Better than Banding for Long Term Health Outcomes

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Most patients will go through a long pre-surgical process that consists of the surgeon explaining the risks and benefits of the surgery itself, a dietitian instructing on the restrictive diet and eating habits that must be followed after surgery, and a team of healthcare providers assessing the readiness of the patient to tackle the new lifestyle to come.

Unfortunately, though, some programs do not have a lot of supervision over the patient’s progress beyond the standard post-surgery care, particularly in the area of physical exercise. “You wouldn’t invest $25,000 to remodel your home and not maintain it. Shocking as it may seem, follow-up on diet and exercise just isn’t the norm with gastric bypass,” said Gary D. Miller, who heads the team for the study at Wake Forest.

Read: The Best and Worst Hospitals Ranked for Stomach Reduction Surgeries

Miller and his team will evaluate expanded post-operative care for a period of six months in a group of patients after gastric bypass surgery. One group will receive on-site aerobic and resistance training three days a week, supervised by an exercise physiologist who will individualize each patient’s regimen to their ability. A nutritionist will also be analyzing the participants’ food diaries. The second group of patients will receive the current standard care.

The goal is to cement the healthy lifestyle that they started with the gastric bypass. “With so many more people seeking gastric bypass each year, we can improve the long-term outcome of gastric bypass by keeping up with patients as they figure out their new lifestyle,” says Miller. “If we can get them to change the way they live and to keep the weight off, they’ll reap so many additional health benefits, including lower risks of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer.”