Does Weight Loss Surgery Really Work?

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

Obesity is the number one cause of preventable deaths in Australia today, contributing to reduced life expectancy and a range of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.


Losing weight is important to health and wellbeing, but many people struggle to do so through diet and exercise alone.

It is therefore not surprising that people are curious about weight loss surgery.

“Weight loss surgery is not for everyone,” says Dr. Neil Wylie.

“However, we know that where it is appropriate, those patients will achieve a significant weight loss as well as reversal in obesity-related disease.”


A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated significantly more weight loss and control of diabetes with patients who underwent weight loss surgery than those who underwent medical treatment alone.

So how does it work?


Changes in Mindset

By the time people start researching weight loss surgery, they have usually made multiple attempts at losing weight, with varying degrees of success. Having surgery of any kind is significant.

The assessment process for weight loss surgery is a comprehensive one that has several objectives. It helps to identify just how significantly a patient’s health has been affected by their weight. It also helps to ensure that surgery can be made as safe as possible by optimising patients comorbidities prior to surgery. Finally the assessment process helps to ensure that patient can identify and implement food choices and patterns of behaviour so they can receive the maximum benefit from their surgery.

This can provide real motivation to make changes not just for the immediate future but life long.

Similarly, repeated failed attempts to lose weight can leave people feeling discouraged, but it can also make them more determined than ever to succeed. This changed mindset can be one reason weight loss surgery succeeds, because people have more focus and motivation to achieve their goals.

Changes in Anatomy

On a physiological level, weight loss surgery restricts the volume of food that is able to be eaten and absorbed.

Although it seems quite logical that this would lead to weight loss, we are increasingly realising that this is probably not the primary way that weight loss surgery works.

There are two other physiological changes that come about due to weight loss surgery that make a big difference.

Changes in hormones

Hormones are the messengers that communicate between the brain and body.

They are the signals that tell us when to grow, when we are hungry, when we feel full, when we are sleepy, when we feel awake, and many other bodily functions.

Weight loss surgery affects the hormonal signals between the gut and brain, including decreased appetite and an increased sense of satiety.

According to Dr. Wylie, this is one of the least understood aspects of weight loss surgery. “As we learn more it is this aspect that we are starting to realise may make a much greater contribution to a patient losing weight from weight loss surgery.”


Changes in the gut microbiome

Inside your digestive system lives a community of billions of organisms that are collectively called a ‘microbiome’.

When people are sick they may need to take antibiotics to kill the ‘bad bacteria’ making them unwell.

These days it is also common for people to take probiotics to help boost the ‘good bacteria’ living inside them.

Weight loss surgery impacts the balance of helpful and unhelpful organisms in a patient’s microbiome.


This can have significant effects on how certain foods are absorbed as well as the level of inflammation in the body.

More research is needed in this area, but it is a promising area of medical science and we know it is involved in weight loss surgery being effective long term.

A combination of factors

This combination of changes provides patients with the foundations for other weight loss factors such as nutrition, exercise and ongoing emotional support.

Dr. Wylie has seen patients achieve great transformations from weight loss surgery, including improvements in sleep, reflux, number of medications needed and health conditions such as diabetes.

“Possibly the most compelling story was one patient reporting that her children can actually completely hug her and she can keep up with them.”

Ultimately, whether weight loss surgery is right for you is a question for your health

care team.


Call Today to find out it Weight Loss Surgery is right for you or a loved one

07 4646 3295

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