Weight-loss maintenance in successful weight losers: surgical vs non-surgical methods

Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Jan;33(1):173-80. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.256. Epub 2008 Dec 2.


Objective: As large weight losses are rarely achieved through any method except bariatric surgery, there have been no studies comparing individuals who initially lost large amounts of weight through bariatric surgery or non-surgical means. The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) provides a resource for making such unique comparisons. This study compared the amount of weight regain, behaviors and psychological characteristics in NWCR participants who were equally successful in losing and maintaining large amounts of weight through either bariatric surgery or non-surgical methods.

Design: Surgical participants (n=105) were matched with two non-surgical participants (n=210) on gender, entry weight, maximum weight loss and weight-maintenance duration, and compared prospectively over 1 year.

Results: Participants in the surgical and non-surgical groups reported having lost approximately 56 kg and keeping > or =13.6 kg off for 5.5+/-7.1 years. Both groups gained small but significant amounts of weight from registry entry to 1 year (P=0.034), but did not significantly differ in magnitude of weight regain (1.8+/-7.5 and 1.7+/-7.0 kg for surgical and non-surgical groups, respectively; P=0.369). Surgical participants reported less physical activity, more fast food and fat consumption, less dietary restraint, and higher depression and stress at entry and 1 year. Higher levels of disinhibition at entry and increased disinhibition over 1 year were related to weight regain in both groups.

Conclusions: Despite marked behavioral differences between the groups, significant differences in weight regain were not observed. The findings suggest that weight-loss maintenance comparable with that after bariatric surgery can be accomplished through non-surgical methods with more intensive behavioral efforts. Increased susceptibility to cues that trigger overeating may increase risk of weight regain regardless of initial weight-loss method.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Exercise
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / surgery*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Regression Analysis
  • Weight Loss*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents