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Gastric Banding Study continued...

In gastric banding surgery, an inflatable band is placed around the upper part of the stomach, creating a small pouch, which helps restrict the amount of food eaten.

For comparison, the researchers also followed more than a thousand younger people who got the same operations.

A year after surgery, the older people who got gastric banding were "actually doing better" than younger patients who had the same procedure, says Daud.

There was no difference in results for younger and older gastric bypass patients, the researchers report.

It will be interesting to see the results after two years, says Daud. She is a clinical research coordinator at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

'Safe and Beneficial'

A third study, done at the Cleveland Clinic Florida, included 31 people aged 65 and older who got gastric banding. Over the next year they had reductions in blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and sleep apnea, among other conditions.

"Laparoscopic gastric banding is a safe and beneficial procedure in the elderly population," say the researchers, who included Flavia Soto, MD.

Surgery Not Without Risks

Weight loss surgery has risks, just like any operation using general anesthesia, says Daud. The risks may be "a little higher" for older patients, she says.

It's important to make sure that diabetes is under control before surgery, says Daud.

Cohen says gastric bypass surgery is the "gold standard." He says gastric banding may have more complications, which can include banding slippage and erosion.

However, Daud says her group had no complications, even minor ones, with gastric banding. The surgeon's experience can be a factor, she says.

She and her colleagues say that based on their results, gastric banding might be the better option for older obese adults.

Cohen and Daud agree that weight loss is slower with gastric banding than with gastric bypass.

Diet, Exercise Still Count

Cohen and Daud both say weight loss surgery can be safe for older obese adults. But they also say that surgery is not the only answer.

Exercise and healthy eating are also important, as at any age, they say.

Of course, it's possible to lose weight without surgery. But it's often difficult for older people, say Cohen and Daud.

"I think support is really important, as well," says Daud. Support groups for patients may be helpful, since families may not understand the issues, she says.

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