Obese people who have stomach surgery to help them lose weight will halve their risk of heart attack according to new research from a team of doctors at the University of East Anglia, University of Manchester and University of Aberdeen.
The procedures, known as bariatric surgery, involve techniques such as gastric banding, which are available on the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK for selected patients.
New research published today in the International Journal of Cardiology reviewed data from 14 studies involving more than 29,000 patients who underwent bariatric surgery. It reveals that death rates were reduced by 40 per cent, and that heart attacks in particular were reduced by half - compared to obese people who did not have surgery.
The research is the first comprehensive review of the impact of surgery on heart disease, stroke and death.
Senior author Dr Yoon Loke from UEA's Norwich Medical School said: "Obesity is a worldwide problem with significant consequences on individuals and society. It is associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, many cancers, and a shorter life expectancy.
"The latest government figures from 2011 show that obesity affects about one in four people in the UK and this figure is growing. During 2011-12, the NHS reported 11,736 hospital admissions due to obesity, which represents an 11-fold increase compared to the 1019 admissions in 2001-02.
"We looked at the outcomes for patients who undergo bariatric surgery, and compared them to figures for obese people who had not received surgery. We saw that surgery was potentially life-saving and could lower the risk of having a heart attack and stroke by almost 50 per cent.
"These findings suggest that surgery should be seriously considered in obese patients who have a high risk of heart disease. This is the right time for a large, high-quality trial of bariatric surgery in the NHS to confirm the potential benefits."
The mean age of participants was 48 years old, and 30 per cent of participants were male. The original studies were carried out the North America, Europe and Australia, and patients were followed-up from two years to 14 years.