We hear it all the time: we’re an obese nation. And it’s true–the United States is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. To better understand the implications of this trend, though, it’s important to also understand the science of obesity.
Firstly, an individual is considered obese if he or she weighs at least 20% more than the recommended weight for their height. A number of health concerns, ranging from diabetes to heart disease, are associated with falling into this weigh class. In fact, obesity-related health problems are the second leading causes of preventable death, second only to smoking.
In the United States today, approximately one in three adults is considered obese. With these alarming statistics in mind, it’s no wonder that more and more, obese individuals, along with the medical community, are looking toward weight loss surgery options. Surgically assisted weight loss has proven extremely successful for the obese, but each option comes with unique procedures and caveats.
According to The Mayo Clinic’s Guide to types of weight-loss surgery, there are four specific types of surgery most common for weight loss surgery options.
One of the most well known weight loss surgeries is also one of the most common. This is gastric bypass surgery. In this procedure, surgeons create s mall pouch at the top of the stomach, which becomes the only part of the stomach that received food. This dramatically reduces the amount of food one can comfortably eat (or drink) at one time.
As a result of food also bypassing a portion of the small intestine, the amount of nutrients and calories absorbed is also greatly reduced. This procedure, accordingly, can lead to successful weight loss in many patients. In fact, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found that those who had gastric bypasses lost, on average, 64.8 pounds within one year of surgery.
The next in weight loss surgery options is gastric banding. This procedure differs from gastric bypass in the method of reducing stomach size. During a gastric banding procedure, surgeons place a band containing an inflatable balloon around the upper part of the stomach. This placement creates a small stomach pouch in the area above the band with a very narrow opening to the rest of the stomach. Doctors, then, can inflate or deflate the band to adjust the size of the pouch.
Like bypass, gastric banding also limits the amount of food one’s stomach can hold, but it doesn’t reduce the amount of nutrients or calories absorbed.
Similar to both gastric bypass and banding weight loss surgery options, a gastric sleeve sections off part of the stomach. With this procedure, however, a part of the stomach is actually removed from the body, while the remaining portion is formed into a tube-like structure. This “sleeve,” as it is called, also restricts the amount of food a patient can hold and lessens the appetite-regulating hormone so individuals don’t feel as hungry as often.
Results for this type of bariatric surgery are also promising. Patients who undergo gastric sleeve surgery, on average, lose up to three-fourths of their excess weight, amounting to an average of about 55 pounds lost within the first year of surgery.
The last type of weight loss surgery typically performed at a medical weight loss clinic is a duodenal switch. Just like the gastric sleeve, this procedure involves having a portion of the stomach fully removed from the body. The only things left include the valve that releases food to the small intestine and the first part of the small intestine, called the “duodenum.” The doctor then closes off the mid-intestine and attached the last piece directly to the duodenum.
This option also has proven successful in aiding in dramatic weight loss for patients. Since the surgery reduces stomach size by 80% and force food to bypass the small intestine altogether, there’s a significant reduction in the amount of calories and nutrients absorbed. As a result, patients have been known to lose up to 70% of their excess weight from this procedure.
Abstinence-based methods of losing weight can be very difficult and unsuccessful in the long run. Weight loss surgery, contrastingly, can provide a more efficient, hopeful options for overweight individuals.