Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another study on gastric bypass

Every so often, a new study comes out, presumably "proving" how effective the gastric bypass is.  That's because this surgery is a huge cash cow for the medical field and less and less folks are having it - because of the post op, high complication and death rate (never mentioned in the studies of course). And because at the end of the day, it's not even very effective for weight loss.

This study which appeared in NEJM, was similar to the others.  Sounds very impressive - it was a 12 year observational study they tell us - as the surgery was shown as slightly effective for weight loss and very effective for diabetics.  Let's remember that patients are told if they don't diet and exercise, they won't lose any weight even after an invasive surgery like the gastric bypass but of course, diet and exercise work well without risking one's life to have a gastric bypass, thus the first thing they slip by us, is not distinguishing those who dieted and exercised (which would have caused a weight loss without surgery) from those who didn't.  

If we break down the study, you will see, it's not what it seems to be.  Here's a money quote:

In the study by Adams et al., despite a wide variation in change in body weight across the sample, 360 of 387 patients (93%) in the surgery group maintained at least a 10% weight loss from baseline to year 12, 271 (70%) maintained at least a 20% weight loss, and 155 (40%) maintained at least a 30% weight loss. Only 4 of 387 patients (1%) in the surgery group had regained all their postsurgical weight loss. 

First of all, a 10% weight loss on a 300 lb person is only 30 lbs. But secondly, of course, the high death rate for this surgery (5% in the first month after surgery) is not counted and also even a 30% weight loss is not very impressive. Also, the gastric bypass, more often than not, causes malnutrition which can cause weight loss. (The important parts of the digestive tract are severely undermined or bypassed)  To be fair, they should eliminate all members of the cohort who are suffering from hypoglycemia or malnutrition but of course, they never do that.  

For diabetes, it looks even more impressive:

In the surgery group followed by Adams et al., remission of type 2 diabetes was observed in 66 of 88 patients (75%) at 2 years, in 54 of 87 patients (62%) at 6 years, and in 43 of 84 patients (51%) at 12 years. Of the 62 patients in the surgery group who had initial remission at 2 years and had 12-year follow-up data, 69% remained free of type 2 diabetes at 12 years. Successful remission of type 2 diabetes was strongly predicted by baseline medication status.

But let's look at how they pick the cohort (study participants). Usually, they pick folks who are - what is called - pre diabetic. Which means they don't have diabetes yet, and if and when they come down with diabetes, it's several years before it gets really bad.  Additionally, malnutrition after the gastric bypass helps with this aspect too.  It's well known that starvation or semi starvation will cause diabetes, especially early diabetes, to go into remission.  Bottom line, starvation or semi starvation with a non mutilated digestive tract is safer than that caused by a mutilated digestive tract and causes a better weight loss than invasive outdated surgery.

The study was funded by the diabetes assn and it's a known fact that the funding does influence the results of the study. 

In other words, it's the same old trick - the hope that the public will believe this, rather than do research or question, and rush out to buy the surgery. Because the bottom line is, although they should not even DO this outdated, risky and not real effective surgery anymore, it's a big cash cow.  Buyer beware, especially in a "for profit" medical provider setup.