Weight Loss Surgery Doesn’t Help Older Men Live Longer

Weight loss surgery may not extend the life expectancy of older men, and mortality rates following surgery may be higher for this demographic, a new study shows.

A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that weight loss surgery does not improve longevity in older men. Prior studies found that survival rates improved after two to 10 years in patients who underwent weight loss surgery, but study subjects were mostly younger women. In contrast, the recent findings indicated that survival rates did not improve for obese older men.

The new study included men with an average age of 49 and an average body mass index (BMI) of 47. A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese. Researchers compared nearly 850 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery in Veterans Affairs hospitals with other obese male veterans matched for a similar age, race and marital status.

After nearly seven years, the survival rate was the same between the two groups.

“Nearly all prior studies have found bariatric surgery to be associated with reduced mortality. But those studies were conducted on very different patient populations using less rigorous methods,” said lead author Matthew Maciejewski of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

Interestingly, a month after undergoing the bariatric procedure, 11 survey participants died—representing a mortality rate four times higher than other studies. Organ damage caused by obesity could have been too far along for bariatric surgery to reverse it in older patients, some experts said. Others suggest that since weight distribution is different in men versus women—men tend to gain weight in their abdomen area, while women gain in the hips and thighs—the surgery is simply more difficult on men than on women.

Researchers behind this new study say they will continue to follow participants to see whether a survival benefit shows over the long range, such as 10-14 years. In the meantime, the immediate health benefits of weight loss surgery, such as lower blood pressure, abatement of diabetes, an improved quality of life, and reduced sleep apnea and joint problems, still make weight loss surgery a viable option for morbidly obese patients.

2 Responses

  1. Dr. Brian Grossman

    I would like more details on this study. Am I confused? This study seems to indicate that weight loss, through surgery or normal means does not impact health. How can that be possible? What was the post care for the participants? Is this study suggesting if a man reduces from 300 pounds to 190 it does not have a health benefit?