New study to evaluate weight-loss surgery in lower-BMI patients

A new study is enrolling patients to evaluate whether bariatric surgery—normally reserved for the severely obese—is beneficial in a lighter subset of patients.

The New Jersey Bariatric Center (NJBC) is accepting patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 to 35. Current guidelines restrict gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy procedures to patients with a BMI over 40 or above 35 with associated obesity-related illnesses.

“Bariatric surgery is known to be a safe and effective way to decrease the burden of disease in the obese patient,” NJBC surgical director and principal study investigator Ajay Goyal, MD, said in a press release. “There is a growing body of evidence that shows the same positive health effects we see in patients with a BMI over 35 will be achieved in patients with moderate obesity. Our hope is to create a new standard for qualifying patients, so we can intervene earlier and see positive effects on long-term health.”

A study published by JAMA Surgery in December showed gastric bypass surgery helped patients lose more than a quarter of their weight on average and significantly reduced the prevalence of diabetes and hypertension over seven years of follow-up. But those patients had a mean BMI of 47 at baseline, well above the threshold for the new study.

However, Goyal pointed out the 2012 STAMPEDE trial demonstrated weight-loss surgery to be effective in treating type 2 diabetes for patients with a BMI of 27. Based on those findings and other research, the American Diabetes Association in 2016 recommended bariatric surgery for some mildly obese patients who fail to respond to other treatments.