Background: Obesity is a major, growing health problem. Observational studies suggest that bariatric surgery is more effective than nonsurgical therapy, but no randomized, controlled trials have confirmed this.
Objective: To ascertain whether surgical therapy for obesity achieves better weight loss, health, and quality of life than nonsurgical therapy.
Design: Randomized, controlled trial.
Setting: University departments of medicine and surgery and an affiliated private hospital.
Patients: 80 adults with mild to moderate obesity (body mass index, 30 kg/m2 to 35 kg/m2) from the general community.
Interventions: Patients were assigned to a program of very-low-calorie diets, pharmacotherapy, and lifestyle change for 24 months (nonsurgical group) or to placement of a laparoscopic adjustable gastric band (LAP-BAND System, INAMED Health, Santa Barbara, California) (surgical group).
Measurements: Outcome measures were weight change, presence of the metabolic syndrome, and change in quality of life at 2 years.
Results: At 2 years, the surgical group had greater weight loss, with a mean of 21.6% (95% CI, 19.3% to 23.9%) of initial weight lost and 87.2% (CI, 77.7% to 96.6%) of excess weight lost, while the nonsurgical group had a loss of 5.5% (CI, 3.2% to 7.9%) of initial weight and 21.8% (CI, 11.9% to 31.6%) of excess weight (P < 0.001). The metabolic syndrome was initially present in 15 (38%) patients in each group and was present in 8 (24%) nonsurgical patients and 1 (3%) surgical patient at the completion of the study (P < 0.002). Quality of life improved statistically significantly more in the surgical group (8 of 8 subscores of Short Form-36) than in the nonsurgical group (3 of 8 subscores).
Limitations: The study included mildly and moderately obese participants, was not powered for comparison of adverse events, and examined outcomes only for 24 months.
Conclusions: Surgical treatment using laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding was statistically significantly more effective than nonsurgical therapy in reducing weight, resolving the metabolic syndrome, and improving quality of life during a 24-month treatment program.