Bariatric surgery is a term covering several different surgical procedures that help with weight loss. All basically work by changing the anatomy and size of the stomach to limit the amount of food that can be ingested. In some cases, the surgery will alter the digestion process so that metabolism rates are improved.

Approximately 263,000 people underwent these types of procedures in 2022, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

The options for bariatric surgery are:

All these procedures are known to successfully help folks drop a significant amount of weight, and they can do even more for some patients. A recent Vanderbilt University Medical Center study shows that bariatric surgery can also improve heart health.

Surgery helped patients lose weight and many also experienced improvements in HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose levels.

The team noted a range of cardiometabolic improvements from the surgery, including improvements in measures of total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-c), triglycerides, glucose and glycated hemoglobin or the glucose level in the blood. These changes were particularly noteworthy among younger and female patients and those who hadn't developed comorbidities (additional chronic medical conditions) associated with obesity, such as diabetes or hypertension.

The U.S. has the highest rates of obesity worldwide. About 40 percent of our population is obese and 9 percent are considered severely obese, so it's good news that bariatric surgeries successfully aid in weight loss. And they do more than that.

Additional heart healthy perks that come along with bariatric procedures. “Our study highlights how bariatric surgery not only leads to significant weight loss but also substantially improves heart health,” lead author, Lei Wang of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a press release. “These health benefits include lower blood pressure, blood lipids and blood sugar, and an estimated 35 percent reduction in 10-year cardiovascular disease risk one year after surgery.”

Thirty to 50 percent of the bariatric surgery patients experienced remissions in diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia, the imbalance of lipids or fats in the blood.

The study involved more than 7,800 people between the ages of 20 to 79 who had had bariatric surgery between 1999 to 2022 at the Vanderbilt Medical Center. Most of the Vanderbilt patients included in the study were women and white, but also included were a significant number of male and Black patients. In the past, Black patients have been underrepresented in bariatric surgery studies.

Improvements were seen in up to half of the patients, but cardiometabolic measures among older, male and Black patients were not improved as much. These patients had less of a reduction in 10-year heart disease risk, as well as a lower likelihood of diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia remission, than younger women or white patients. In addition, bariatric surgery patients with a history of diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia or cardiovascular disease showed fewer cardiometabolic improvements than those who didn't have these comorbidities going into surgery.

Still, the overall results are positive. “Our findings can help people with severe obesity experience better health outcomes and help us to recognize which patients may require extra health management after surgery,” said Wang.

If you're battling obesity, speak with your healthcare provider about your options. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control offers these tips to help with weight loss:

  • Step 1: Make a commitment
  • Step 2: Take stock of where you are
  • Step 3: Set realistic goals
  • Step 4: Identify resources for information and support
  • Step 5: Continually monitor your progress

The study is published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.