Bariatric Surgery: Cure or Band-Aid for Obesity?
Obesity has without a doubt become epidemic in proportion. We currently classify adults as overweight if their body-mass index (BMI) is greater than 25 kg/m², obese if BMI is greater than 30 kg/m² and morbidly obese if BMI is greater than 40 kg/m². Bariatric surgery is one option, but is it right for you?
Approximately one-third of US adults are considered obese and one-third of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, which are some of the leading causes of preventable death. Obese children are unfortunately vulnerable to these same types of metabolic health risks.
Among treatment options for obesity, bariatric surgery is being prescribed and performed more and more frequently. Proponents of the surgery claim that that it is the only “cure” for obesity, but considering that the surgery does not address the underlying cause of this disease, can we really call it a surefire “cure”?
What is bariatric surgery?
Bariatric surgery makes changes to the digestive system to help in weight loss by limiting intake or by reducing the absorption of nutrients, or both. The most commonly used bariatric surgery techniques are Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, and laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding.
Roux-en Y gastric bypass – involves creating a stomach pouch out of a small portion of the stomach and attaching it directly to the small intestine, bypassing a large part of the stomach and duodenum.
Sleeve gastrectomy – removes approximately 85% of the stomach, shaping the remaining stomach into a tube or “sleeve.”
Laparoscopic (LAP) adjustable gastric banding –involves placing a band around the upper part of the stomach to create a small pouch to hold food that limits the amount of food that can be eaten.
Current guidelines recommend consideration of bariatric surgery for individuals with a BMI >40 or >35 with serious comorbidities related to obesity, such type 2 diabetes.
What are the potential complications of bariatric surgery?
If you are considering Bariatric surgery as a weight loss solution, we urge you to watch this video from our friends at NutritionFacts.org. With any surgery there is an associated risk, and bariatric surgery is no different. This is not a benign procedure and should be taken with great consideration and preparation – medically, nutritionally, and psychologically. Even the best bariatric program carries with it some complication risk. Complications following surgical treatment of severe obesity vary based upon the procedure performed and can be as high as 40 percent.
Complications from bariatric surgery can occur both immediately after surgery or develop later and include:
- Hernia at the surgical site
- Inadequate absorption of important vitamins and minerals
- Low blood glucose
- Change in bowel habits
- Failure to lose weight or weight regain
Does bariatric surgery actually “cure” obesity?
Bariatric surgery is certainly not a “cure” for obesity and obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. This is not a one size fits all quick fix and really is only for a carefully selected group of patients.
Specifically, in regards to type 2 diabetes in the setting of obesity, a recent study out of University of Texas Southwestern showed that by putting persons with diabetes who did not undergo bariatric surgery on the same postsurgical diet as others who did undergo surgery (ie – ice chips, clears liquids, etc.), the same, if not better, daily blood sugar numbers were achieved. These results put into question pro-bariatric expert claims that diabetes is dramatically improved immediately after surgery.
Unfortunately, in regards to long term results, as more bariatric surgeries are performed solely for the intent of weight loss, we are seeing more and more patients in the clinic where bariatric surgery failed to “cure” anything – meaning lack of sustained long-term weight loss and failure to get off medications. In many cases, undergoing the surgery has created more complicated issues.
The non-surgical approach to sustainable weight loss, meaning a plan made up of changing behaviors and diet, and increasing physical activity, with added medicines as needed, remains the best and safest approach to weight loss until proven otherwise without a doubt. We need to address the root cause of obesity and make the right changes that are necessary in order for successful weight loss. Bariatric surgery just puts a “Band-Aid” over the problem that comes off with time.
To discuss which weight loss option is right for you, contact us at (954) 628-3802 or read more about our program at Our Approach at cardiomendermd.com.