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Keywords:

  • Bariatric surgery;
  • obesity;
  • sexual abuse;
  • weight loss

Summary

Bariatric surgery is becoming more and more influential as efficient weight loss therapy for the morbidly obese. As many studies propose a relationship between sexual abuse and obesity in general, but especially with regard to weight regain after successful weight loss, sexual abuse might also have a crucial impact on the outcome of the surgical procedures. This review examines the literature comparing weight loss after bariatric surgery in sexually abused and non-abused individuals. We conducted a systematic electronic literature search covering PubMed/Medline, ScienceDirect, PsychInfo and Web of Science. While 13 studies examined prevalence rates of sexual abuse among bariatric patients, eight studies explicitly investigated the effect of sexual abuse on surgery outcome. We hypothesized that individuals with a history of sexual abuse lose less weight compared to individuals with no such abuse history. At first glance, only three out of eight studies demonstrated significantly reduced weight loss in the sexually abused patients. However, a closer investigation of all studies revealed that patients with abuse experiences may indeed tend to lose less weight initially. Still, this sub-population apparently benefits from the surgical procedure, as revealed by increased weight loss over time. Reasons for these mixed results are discussed, as well as the clinical implications that can be drawn from these studies.