NY Times Column Touts Bariatric Surgery

Published in February Issue             

Jane Brody, the highly respected personal health columnist from The New York Times, recently dedicated a column to bariatric surgery in an article entitled, “Why Weight Loss Surgery Works When Diets Don’t.” It provides an excellent overview of bariatric surgery and helps clear up some of the myths surrounding it. The article also references the recent ASMBS/NORC Poll on Obesity in America. The column is featured in the newspaper, which has a circulation of 590,000 readers and online, which gets nearly 77 million unique
monthly visitors.

Here are a few excerpts that were particularly powerful including comments from ASMBS president Dr. Stacy Brethauer:

  • “Bariatric surgery is probably the most effective intervention we have in health care,” says Laurie K. Twells, a clinical epidemiologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

  • “I haven’t come across a patient yet who wouldn’t recommend it,” Dr. Twells said in an interview. “Most say they wish they’d done it 10 years sooner.”

  • Equally important are the undeniable medical benefits of surgically induced weight loss. They include normalizing blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipid levels and curing sleep apnea. Although bariatric surgery cannot cure Type 2 diabetes, it nearly always puts the disease into remission and slows or prevents the life-threatening damage it can cause to the heart and blood vessels.

  • Even in the small percentage of patients who ultimately lose little weight after surgery, significant metabolic benefits persist.

  • In a study of 31 obese diabetic patients who had not lost a lot of excess weight five to nine years after surgery, a “modest” weight loss of just 5 to 10 percent resulted in a reduction of cardiovascular risk factors and blood sugar abnormalities, Dr. Stacy Brethauer and colleagues reported.

  • For the two most popular surgical techniques — the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve — “the metabolic benefits are independent of weight loss,” Dr. Brethauer said in an interview.

  • Those who underwent bariatric surgery had lower overall death rates up to 14 years later than comparable patients who did not have weight-loss surgery.

  • Experts in the field regard the reluctance of some medical insurers, including Medicaid programs in many states, to cover the cost of bariatric surgery as a penny-wise, pound-foolish position.

  • Counter to popular impressions that most people treated surgically regain most or all the weight they lose initially, the latest long-term research has shown otherwise.

  • The surgery is “vastly underutilized,” to the detriment of patients’ health and the nation’s health care costs.

  • Less than 1 percent who would qualify for bariatric surgery are actually getting it.

  • Given the well-documented safety and effectiveness of bariatric surgery, it is now increasingly being performed in people whose obesity is less severe — those with a body mass index (B.M.I.) of 35 or perhaps even less — but who have a metabolic disorder like Type 2 diabetes related to their weight.

  • “We have yet to find a way to prevent obesity, and people whose health is compromised by their weight deserve to be treated by the most effective method
    we have.”

Click here to read the full article.