The Weight Loss Option That’s Too Often Ignored
Bariatric surgery is an effective yet vastly underused option for many Americans struggling to lose weight and keep it off despite their best intentions and strongest motivations. This procedure can lead to long-term weight loss, improved physical and emotional health, reduced risk of chronic diseases, lower mortality rates, and potentially even increased longevity. But despite its proven benefits, bariatric surgery is often overlooked due to its stigma, fears of surgery, and issues with insurers.
What Is Bariatric Surgery?
Bariatric surgery is generally recommended for those with a BMI of 40 or more who failed to lose weight with diet and exercise alone. It’s also recommended for those with lesser degrees of obesity (BMI 30 to 35) who have obesity-related medical conditions.
Current evidence suggests that young people at an early stage of obesity may benefit from bariatric surgery, too, since most adolescents who are obese remain obese as adults with worse medical outcomes than those who became obese as adults.
The most common bariatric surgeries today are sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. Sleeve gastrectomy removes around 85% of the stomach, limiting how much food can be consumed and reducing hunger by eliminating the portion of the stomach which produces ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates appetite). Gastric bypass reduces the stomach to the size of an egg and bypasses a major portion of the small intestine to limit caloric absorption. Both operations are done laparoscopically, and hospital stays are usually one or two days.
Benefits of Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery has been found to reduce or reverse obesity-related disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, GERD, sleep apnea, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, urinary incontinence, infertility, and fractures – all while potentially reducing death rates by nearly 50 percent. The best results are seen in those over 55 years old.
Within three years of bariatric surgery, most patients experience less pain and improved walking ability. However, success depends on patients being able to follow a healthful diet and exercise regimen post-surgery.
As with any operation, there are potential risks associated with bariatric surgery, including certain complications. However, experienced surgeons at medical centers which do many of these operations report low rates of complication and mortality – often lower than other bariatric techniques like lap band surgery.
Cost & Coverage
The average weight loss surgery cost ranges from $17000 – $30000 depending on your location and provider. This can be covered by insurance – although this isn’t guaranteed. The untreated costs of obesity to the US economy is estimated at $1.72 trillion annually – money that could be saved if more people had access to bariatric surgery.
Bariatric surgery is a safe, effective, and long-lasting treatment for obesity which should not be disregarded because of its potential stigma or misunderstandings about its effectiveness. While it’s possible to overeat and stretch one’s stomach back to its original size after the operation, this can be avoided through proper support regarding nutrition and lifestyle changes both before and after surgery when combined with a healthful diet and regular exercise. Most importantly, if you’re considering bariatric surgery, make sure that you seek out experienced specialists in reputable medical centers who can provide clear guidance on risks and rewards.