You Wanted to Know: Bariatric Surgery

Doctor with Stethoscope Holding Red Measuring Tape.

As you all know, I believe deeply in the power of eating right and staying active, not only to help you lose weight, but also to boost your mood and help you live longer. But for some people, years of diet and exercise haven’t been enough to get them to a healthy weight and reduce the risks of chronic diseases like diabetes. Weight loss surgery has been gaining momentum and is a healthy option for certain people who have been persistently unsuccessful at losing weight. Brenda asked me about who might benefit from these bariatric procedures on Twitter:


Bariatric surgeries are often highly effective and have become increasingly common over the past several decades. Nevertheless, they are also serious procedures that require a lot of careful thinking and planning before you commit.

In general, people who are considered to be candidates for bariatric surgery have to have failed multiple attempts at losing weight through diet and exercise. According to the National Institutes of Health and the American Bariatric Society, they also need to fall into one of these categories:

  • Adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher
  • Adults with a BMI between 35 and 39.9 with at least one serious comorbid illness (including type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, asthma, severe urinary incontinence and debilitating arthritis, among a few others).
  • Surgeons will sometimes operate on adults with a BMI between 30 and 34.9 and a serious weight-related health problem such as uncontrollable type 2 diabetes. Evidence supporting long-term benefits of operating on these patients is not yet definitive.

You can calculate your BMI using this calculator

People who suffer from bulimia nervosa are not candidates for bariatric surgery. Other conditions that may prevent people from undergoing these procedures include binge-eating disorders, untreated depression or psychosis, current drug or alcohol abuse, severe heart disease that makes administering anesthesia dangerous, severe clotting disorders, or inability or unwillingness to comply with the dietary changes and nutritional supplementation required after the surgery.

There are multiple types of bariatric procedures, some of which are more invasive or require more recovery time than others. You can read more about common bariatric surgeries here. If you think bariatric surgery might be a good choice for you, be sure to talk to your doctor.