Obesity and bariatric surgery – the obvious and not so obvious effects

June 10, 2014

The percentage of overweight and obese Australians is on the increase.  In 2010 overweight and obese Australians were estimated to cost the country $56.6 billion in both direct and indirect costs (1). Putting costs aside, obesity is strongly linked to individuals experiencing reduced quality of life – both physically and mentally.

National health guidelines promote “healthy eating plans, increased physical activity and behavioural modification” for managing obesity (1).  In some cases these approaches do not make sufficient difference, and more aggressive treatment such as surgically induced weight loss is performed – typically as a last resort.

There are three types of surgical procedures for weight loss – gastric bypass, adjustable gastric banding and sleeve gastrostomy. Collectively they are referred to as bariatric surgery.  All three have been shown to be effective with the average body mass index dropping from 46 to 29-37 kg/m2. As with all surgery there are risks. The risk of complication ranges from 10% to 17% depending on the operation type and patient factors, while the risk of mortality is very low – less than 1% (2).

In addition to weight loss it is important to recognise the other significant health benefits that can be achieved through bariatric surgery.  These include greater control of type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improved sleep apnoea. The cumulative positive effects of bariatric surgery can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life as well as reducing costs to the health care system.

As rates of obesity continue to rise, and the debate between genetic and environmental factors continues, dietary, societal and surgical interventions are increasingly needed.

Further information.

  1. National Health and Medical Research Council, Obesity and Overweight, http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/your-health/obesity-and-overweight, accessed 30/12/13
  2. Busko M (2013) Current Bariatric Surgery Safe and Effective: Meta-Analysis in JAMA Surgery, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818289, accessed 30/12/13
  3. Nainggolan L & Barclay L (2012) Bariatric Surgery Beats Standard Therapy in Obese Diabetics, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/760883, accessed 30/12/13

Disclaimer: this information is of a general nature only. Please consult your health professional before acting on information contained herein.

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Posted in Blog by Douglas Fahlbusch