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YOUR HEALTH: Bariatric surgery's added benefits

Why bariatric surgery may do more than help you lose weight

CLEVELAND — Obesity is a national epidemic. 

More than one in three American adults is obese and about one in 13 is considered extremely obese. 

Weight loss procedures known as bariatric surgery can help people who have severe obesity lose weight. 

A new study led by Cleveland Clinic researchers shows the surgery might also help keep a person's liver healthy.

"What happened was very dramatic," said Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic's Heart, Vascular, and Thoracic Institute.

Fatty liver disease occurs when the liver becomes infiltrated with fat. 

It can lead to liver failure and there's no cure. 

Investigators studied 1,158 adults and found those who had bariatric surgery had an 88% lower risk of having their advanced fatty liver disease progress to cirrhosis, liver cancer, or liver-related death.

"The reduction was as large as we've ever seen for any intervention for any disease," said Dr. Nissen.

Research shows about 228,000 Americans undergo these procedures each year which is only about one percent of the eligible population.  

Researchers also found patients who had bariatric surgery had a 70% lower chance of developing serious cardiovascular issues, like heart attack and stroke. 

Other research has shown bariatric surgery may help improve or lower the risk of type two diabetes, sleep apnea, back pain, and depression.

While there are some risks, doctors say the procedures are safe and effective options for those who are good candidates.

New obesity treatment

The FDA has approved an injectable medication taken once per week for weight management, called Wegovy. 

Phase 3 clinical trials were conducted in a variety of clinical scenarios, each varying slightly in the study population and study design. 

The results, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated an average of 14.9% body weight reduction after 68 weeks of therapy in those assigned to the medication group, versus only 2.4% weight loss in those assigned to the placebo group. 

The most common side effects were nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation. 

This injectable can be used for as long as it remains beneficial for weight loss and/or weight maintenance and is not causing intolerable side effects. 

The SELECT trial is the long-term cardiovascular outcomes trial for Wegovy that aims to assess its effects on heart disease and stroke in patients with overweight and obesity and is currently ongoing.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com