NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bariatric surgery could soon become a more common treatment for obesity, even for people who aren’t extremely overweight.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez says earlier surgery could prevent life-threatening diseases.

For over 20 years, Shaun Rogers struggled to manage his weight as his diabetes symptoms worsened.

“Just dieting and continuing the cycle with the insulin, I was never going to lose the amount of weight I needed to lose to get the diabetes in really good control,” he said.

His next option was bariatric, or obesity, surgery, which includes a ranch of procedures, from a lap band to stomach reduction to various intestinal bypass operations.

But with a BMI of just 35, Rogers didn’t think he was a candidate for surgery.

“BMI is not really a fair or accurate representation of who should be getting therapy,” Dr. Stacy Brethauer, of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said.

Experts say the criteria for bariatric surgery are outdated and arbitrary. While someone with a BMI of 35 is approved, the next person with uncontrolled diabetes and a BMI of 34 may be denied.

“The patient who doesn’t get the operation, we know very well that their disease will progress, their lifespan will be shortened,” Brethauer said.

That can include diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Like other chronic diseases, the best method for prevention is to intervene early.

“Continuing to increase their insulin requirements and provide the medical therapy is not going to change the trajectory of the disease. It just doesn’t. Surgery does,” Brethauer said.

Unfortunately, many still believe that obesity is a problem of willpower, and that patients can take it upon themselves to fix it.

“No one asks somebody with cancer to do it themselves. They have to participate in their care and do the right things, but there’s also effective therapy being offered to those patients,” Brethauer said.

Since his surgery, Rogers has lost 120 pounds, is off all oral medications and has gone from nearly 500 units insulin a day to about 10.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery has updated the guidelines for obesity surgery based on a patient’s whole health rather than just BMI. They say earlier surgery will actually save healthcare dollars by preventing costly chronic diseases in the future.