Busting weight loss surgery myths


GILBERT, Ariz. – Bariatric surgery is on the rise with an estimated 177,000 surgeries performed last year, nearly four times the number performed four years ago. But even with this surge in surgeries, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it.

You'd never know now, but Nurse Kathrine Carr struggled with her weight for most of her life.  At 5-foot 7-inchs, Carr's weight peaked at 252 pounds.

"I completely understand what it was like to be that heavy person. To have trouble shopping in regular clothes," she said.  "I tried every diet possible."

Then five years ago, she opted for bariatric surgery and her battle with the bulge turned into fighting stereotypes, and our first myth.

"Probably the biggest one I heard was I was taking the easy way out," Carr said.

David Podkameni, M.D., and the Medical Director at the Bariatric Program at the Banner Gateway Medical Center, says nothing could be further from the truth.

"You still have to diet, you still have to exercise. It's not going to work by itself," said Podkameni told Ivanhoe.

Myth 2: You can't have surgery if you have diabetes. People who undergo bariatric surgery are three- to four-times more likely to have their Type 2 diabetes go into remission, compared to those receiving intensive medical treatment alone.

Myth 3: Weight loss surgery will make you lose weight. On average, patients lose about 60 percent of their extra weight.

"Bariatric surgery is just a tool over the whole process," Podkameni explained.

Myth 4: The surgery is all cosmetic.  "It has to do with change in metabolism, it has to do with influencing remission of diabetes, treating sleep apnea, treating high blood pressure, hypertension," said Podkameni.

Our final myth: Weight loss from surgery is permanent. Some regain is likely; for Carr it's been 20 pounds. But she's still lost 100 pounds and kept it off.

One way bariatric surgery helps change metabolism is by affecting the hormones that control hunger. After surgery, levels of one of these hormones, ghrelin, drops dramatically so patients don't feel as hungry.

Additional Information:

For millions of Americans, obesity is a lifelong struggle that not only affects one's self-image, but his/her overall health and well-being. The complications of obesity can seriously affect one's ability to live a full and active life. Bariatric surgery alters the digestive system to help people with severe weight-related health problems lose weight. Bariatric refers to the causes, prevention, and treatment of obesity.  (SOURCE: mayoclinic.com; floridabariatric.com

PEOPLE WHO CONSIDER BARIATRIC SURGERY: Bariatric surgery is often the appropriate weight loss option for patients whose body mass index (BMI) is above 35. Surgical weight loss options typically result in quick and dramatic weight loss among patients and significantly reduce obesity-related health issues, such as diabetes. (SOURCE: emoryhealthcare.org)

TYPES OF BARIATRIC SURGERY: There are many types of weight-loss surgery, known collectively as bariatric surgery. The most popular three are:

  • Gastric Bypass - The gastric bypass surgical weight-loss option reduces stomach size and diverts the passage of food through the small intestine to limit digestion, leaving patients feeling full after eating less.

  • Gastric Banding - Gastric banding is a minimally-invasive weight loss procedure in which doctors place an adjustable silicone band around the upper portion of the patient's stomach to reduce stomach size.

  • Sleeve Gastrectomy - The sleeve gastrectomy procedure is a surgical weight loss options in which doctors permanently remove approximately 75 percent of the patient's stomach. The remaining, smaller stomach is reshaped into the form of a sleeve.

(SOURCE: mayoclinic.com; emoryhealthcare.org

RISK FACTORS: As with any major surgery, weight-loss surgeries pose potential health risks. These procedures carry the risk of bleeding, infection in the incision, bowel blockage caused by scar tissue, hernia through the incision, rejection of sutures, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. There is also a small possibility of injury to the spleen, which may have to be removed if bleeding cannot be controlled. Some additional risks are directly related to being obese. (SOURCE: www.mayoclinic.com; www.hopkinsbayview.org)