Suicide more likely among people undergoing bariatric surgery

Diet and lifestyle 15. dec 2016 1 min Clinical Professor Bjørn Richelsen Written by Morten Busch

As the obesity epidemic grows throughout high-income countries, the number of possible cures and treatments is also increasing. One of the more radical and also most effective cures is gastric bypass: removing part of the stomach surgically to reduce its size. A Danish research group has studied how this surgery affects the mortality rate.

The study covered 9895 people who underwent bariatric surgery in 2006–2010. Of these, only four died within 1 month, so the short-term risk of the surgery is relatively low. The mortality rate did not appear to be significantly higher than that of age- and sex-matched controls after 4 years.

Since people undergoing bariatric surgery are generally considered to have more problems with their digestive system, it was not surprising that the number of such people dying from diseases of the digestive system was twice as high as among the controls. Researchers also found that 8% of those dying following their operation had greatly weakened blood glucose regulation.

The surprising aspect of the research was that suicide was three times as likely among people undergoing gastric bypass surgery, and deaths from accidents and infectious diseases were twice as high as among the controls. The reasons for these higher mortality rates require further research. Until this is conducted, the researchers recommend additional follow-up of those undergoing surgery in relation to their psychological state, digestion and blood glucose concentration.

The good news is that the surgery is associated with significantly reduced cancer mortality. This is probably because these people were comprehensively examined before and during surgery so that any cancer would have been detected early.

Overall and cause-specific mortality after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery: a nationwide cohort study” has been published in Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. In 2016, the Novo Nordisk Foundation awarded a grant to the article’s co-author, Bjørn Richelsen of Aarhus University, for the project Consequences of Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass on Diabetes, Diabetes Complications, and Bone Health in Type 2 Diabetic Patients.

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