Bariatric physicians speak out against the rush to the operating table

Recently, I posted in support of a New York Times opinion piece that questioned the wisdom of the FDA expanding lap band eligibility to people with a BMI as low as 30.  Today, the Times posted a LTTE from the American Society of Bariatric Physicians on the subject.  In short, they think it’s a bad idea, too, and they want to remind everybody that surgery should be the last option, not the first.  One of the statistics they cite, which you rarely see mentioned, is that the rate of suicide among people who have had bariatric surgery is really, really high.  Hey, that’s one less fatty we all have to look at or sit next to on the plane, right?

Here’s a bit of the letter:

[T]here is no research that proves that bariatric surgery is more effective and less risky than a medical bariatric program when analyzed over the long term.

Compared with bariatric surgery, a medical bariatric program treats obese patients using nonsurgical weight-loss techniques, including diet and exercise, behavioral modification and medication when indicated.

If patients choose surgery, they require long-term diet and lifestyle changes, as well as nutritional supplementation. Almost 30 percent of current bariatric surgery patients regain the weight they initially lose or have the surgery reversed. In addition, the prevalence of suicide increases markedly for bariatric surgery patients.

Surgery should not be viewed as the first or only choice for obese patients.

Now, y’all already know I don’t particularly buy into the idea that there are other weight loss strategies that are actually effective (for the unschooled:  diets, even when combined with exercise, fail about 95% of the time in the long term).  For that matter, I don’t really believe weight loss should automatically be a goal for people just because they’re fat.  It seems much more productive to love your body, respect everybody else’s, and focus your time and attention on health gains rather than body size.  (If that sounds radical to you, Google “HAES” and be amazed.)

But the overwhelming majority of western society doesn’t think like me, and as long as Shrink The Fatties remains our national pastime, it’s nice to see some folks from the medical community speak out against the mad stampede toward the operating table.

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