Tracking pounds regained after weight-loss surgery can help predict a patient’s risk for serious health problems like diabetes, a new study says.
“Clinicians and patients want to know the extent of weight regain following bariatric surgery and how it may affect their health,” said study lead author Wendy King, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh.
“Our study will help clinicians and patients understand the timeline, magnitude and impact of weight regain, as well as lead to further studies on how to best avoid and manage weight regain for better health outcomes,” King said in a university news release.
The study included more than 1,400 adults who had a type of weight-loss surgery called roux-en-Y gastric bypass. They had their weight checked eight times over almost seven years after surgery, on average.
Maximum weight loss occurred two years after surgery on average, but there was significant variation. About 20 percent of the patients continued to lose weight more than four years after surgery, the study found.
But no matter when maximum weight loss occurred, the rate of weight regained was highest in the first year following greatest weight loss. And the percentage of weight regained helped predict major health problems, according to the study authors.
As an example, the researchers pointed to someone who lost 150 pounds after bariatric surgery, and then put back on 28 pounds. That person regained 19 percent of the maximum weight lost.
The researchers said this level of weight regain was tied to a 51 percent higher risk of diabetes progression and a 28 percent higher risk of decline in physical health-related quality of life.
Doctors should realize that this level of weight regain may lead to the progression or development of various health problems. Besides diabetes, these problems include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the researchers said.
King noted that five years after maximum weight loss, patients maintained an average of 73 percent of their maximum weight loss.
“So despite weight regain, in general patients are much healthier having had surgery,” King said.
Study senior author Dr. Anita Courcoulas is chief of minimally invasive bariatric surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She said the study “highlights the importance of longer-term, close follow-up to help maximize weight and health results following bariatric surgery.”
The study was published Oct. 16 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on weight-loss surgery.