Bariatric Surgery and Obesity

What is Bariatric Surgery?

Bariatric surgery is a gastrointestinal operation for obesity. This procedure alters the digestive process. Weight loss surgeries can be divided into three types:

  • Restrictive
  • Malabsorptive
  • Combined restrictive/malabsorptive

Restrictive operations limit food intake by creating a narrow passage from the upper part of the stomach into the larger lower part, reducing the amount of food the stomach can hold and slowing the passage of food through the stomach.

Malabsorptive operations do not limit food intake, but instead exclude most of the small intestine from the digestive tract so fewer calories and nutrients are absorbed. Malabsorptive operations, also called intestinal bypasses, are no longer recommended because they result in severe nutritional deficiencies. Combined operations use stomach restriction and a partial bypass of the small intestine.

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Compare weight loss surgeries.

What is Obesity?

Overweight and obesity are terms for identifying ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

Obesity in America – The New Statistics

The most recent national data on obesity among U.S. adults, children and teens show that more than 30% of adults and almost 17% of children and teens were obese. Of American adults, 68% were overweight and obese and 30% of children and teens were overweight and obese.

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What are the Health Risks of Obesity?

Obesity is more than a cosmetic problem. Many serious medical conditions have been linked to obesity, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Obesity is also linked to higher rates of certain types of cancer. Men who are obese are more likely than non-obese men to develop cancer of the colon, rectum, or prostate. Women who are obese are more likely than non-obese women to develop cancer of the gallbladder, uterus, cervix, or ovaries. Esophageal cancer has also been associated with obesity.

Other diseases and health problems linked to obesity include:

  • Fatty liver disease (also called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH)
  • Gallbladder disease and gallstones
  • Gastroesophageal reflux, or what is sometimes called GERD. This problem occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly and stomach contents leak back—or reflux—into the esophagus
  • Osteoarthritis, a disease in which the joints deteriorate. This is possibly the result of excess weight on the joints
  • Gout, another disease affecting the joints
  • Pulmonary (breathing) problems, including sleep apnea, which causes a person to stop breathing for a short time during sleep
  • Reproductive problems in women, including menstrual irregularities and infertility

Health care providers generally agree that the more obese a person is, the more likely he or she is to develop health problems.

How Losing Weight Improves Health

Fortunately, a weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of your initial body weight can do much to improve health by lowering blood pressure and other risk factors for obesity-related diseases. In addition, research shows that a 5- to 7-percent weight loss brought about by moderate diet and exercise can delay or possibly prevent type 2 diabetes in people at high risk for the disease. In a recent study, participants who were overweight and had pre-diabetes—a condition in which a person’s blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes—were able to delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes by adopting a low-fat, low-calorie diet and exercising for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

But what if traditional weight loss doesn’t work? In some extreme cases of obesity, that’s where bariatric surgery may be recommended.

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