Bariatric surgery is the most effective method for promoting dramatic and durable weight loss in morbidly obese subjects. Furthermore, type 2 diabetes is resolved in over 80% of patients. The mechanisms behind the amelioration in metabolic abnormalities are largely unknown but may be due to changes in energy metabolism, gut peptides and food preference. The goal of this meeting was to review the latest research to better understand the mechanisms behind the ‘magic’ of bariatric surgery. Replication of these effects in a non-surgical manner remains one of the ultimate challenges for the treatment of obesity and diabetes. Promising data on energy metabolism, gastrointestinal physiology, hedonic response and food intake were reviewed and discussed.