Sunday, January 8, 2012

Does Weight Loss Surgery Really Make You Lose Weight?

This article is about the risks and benefits of weight loss surgery among teenagers. Gastric banding bypass surgery is for people who are genetically unable to lose weight on their own, in which a silicone band is inserted into the stomach to constrict it and make the patient feel full sooner. The controversy is whether performing the surgery on teens, whose bodies are still developing, will cause more harm than good. After the surgery the patient is supposed to eat smaller portions so that the band does not become enlarged, and although there is often significant weight loss in the first few weeks the patient can still feel considerable stress because of the restricted diet. Even after the surgery some patients have said that it is difficult to maintain long-term weight loss.

The article cites an Australian study on adolescent obesity which found that one third of teens who have gastric banding surgery come back within two years for follow-up surgery, because they did not follow the diet and their bands became enlarged. The experiment was carried out by a group of doctors, mainly Paul E. O’Brien, at the Center for Obesity Research and Education in Melbourne, Australia. The objective was to compare the results of gastric banding with a non-surgical approach of a supervised lifestyle program geared toward losing weight. 50 random participants from Melbourne, Australia were selected from the experiment. They were all between the years of 14 and 18 and with a body mass index over 35. The participants were put into two groups: the experimental group, which had all undergone gastric banding surgery, and the control group which did a program of lifestyle intervention such as dieting and exercising.

The results were very clearly presented. There was a graph showing how the individuals’ weight changed over the 2 year period of the study, adjusted for age, and it showed that the patients of adjustable gastric banding surgery lost a great deal more weight than those who merely changed their lifestyle. The mean change in the gastric banding group was a 78.8% decrease in body weight, while the non-surgery group experienced a mean of 13.2% decrease. However, 7 of the 25 patients of gastric banding required follow-up surgery because they could not adjust to eating smaller portions. Therefore, gastric banding can result in more significant weight loss than only undergoing a change in lifestyle intervention, but a certain amount of lifestyle intervention is still necessary after surgery to maintain the weight-loss.

The National Health and Medical Research Council funded the study, as well as Allergan, the primary manufacturer of gastric bands. Both of these sponsors had an interest in finding results that proved the success of gastric banding; Allergan wants hospitals to buy its products, and it will profit if gastric banding becomes the primary procedure for weight-loss surgery. The National Health and Medical Research Council would be interested to know that this standard surgery is successful and can continue to be practiced. The results of this study would probably encourage it to support Allergan and gastric banding surgery. Obesity is a prevalent and a very serious health problem, and this experiment was a valuable contribution for evaluating whether this treatment option offers obese youths a better lifestyle.

Hartocollis, Anemona. “Young, Obese and in Surgery.” New York Times, 7 January 2012.

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