STORIES OF THE WEEK

Monday, April 9, 2018            

The following is a summary/brief analysis of the obesity and surgery stories making news this week:

Bariatric Surgery Results in ‘Re-Calibration of Relationships,’ JAMA Surgery Study…Woman Uses Social Media to Shed Light on Common Misconceptions About Weight-Loss Surgery…Class Action Lawsuit Claims School Principal’s Scheme Sent Patients to Mexico for Unsafe Bariatric Surgery…Lower Socioeconomic Status Linked to Higher Rates of Obesity…Liver Damage Found in Children with Obesity as Young as Age 8…Women Who Reach Puberty Earlier Have Greater Risk of Overweight and Obesity…Social Barriers Negatively Affect Weight Loss in Children with Obesity

Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery in the News…

Weight-Loss Surgery Tied to Increases in Divorces, Marriages (Reuters)

The effects of weight-loss surgery extend beyond losing pounds, as personal relationships also tend to change after bariatric surgery, according to findings published in JAMA Surgery. Researchers analyzed patients from the Swedish Obese Subjects study and the Scandinavian Obesity Surgery Registry and found that for those who were married or living with a partner at the time of surgery, divorce and separation were more likely ten years later compared to their matched controls who didn't undergo surgery. People who weren't in a relationship at the time of surgery were more likely to get married or start a new relationship. Weight-loss surgeries result “in a re-calibration of relationships, with patients realizing that they can indeed get out of unhappy relationships and/or initiate new healthy ones,” Dr. Samer Mattar, President of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery and Medical Director at Swedish Weight Loss Services in Seattle, Washington, told Reuters Health by email. “Bariatric surgery magnifies and clarifies the pros and cons of relationships,” said Dr. Mattar, who was not involved with the study. Patients should be aware, he said, that the surgery will improve their health and quality of life, including their ability to independently and confidently make personal decisions. The article notes bariatric surgery is an effective treatment for obesity that has become “increasingly popular” with more than 216,000 procedures performed in the U.S. during 2016, according to the ASMBS.

Why Weight-Loss Surgery is Not the "Easy Way Out" (Shape Magazine)

Story profiles a woman who lost 175 pounds after undergoing sleeve gastrectomy. Though, when sharing her success on social media, she received many negative messages on posts saying she’s a "total phony" and took the "easy way out" by having bariatric surgery. She dispels those messages by saying there is no easy way out when it comes to extreme weight loss and that she learned the hard way that “surgery only works if you do.” After initially losing 60 pounds in two months after her procedure, the woman reports that she regained almost all of the weight because she didn't make any changes to her lifestyle or eating habits. Regaining weight after weight-loss surgery made her realize the need to change her lifestyle, which contributed to her maintaining significant weight loss over two years. “At the end of the day, weight-loss surgery is only a tool that works if you put in the effort.”

Weight-Loss Surgery in Mexico Might Not be as Safe as Advertised
(ABC 15 - Arizona)

A patient who suffered complications after weight-loss surgery in Mexico is now filing a multi-million dollar class action lawsuit, claiming an Arizona school principal and others participated in a scheme to make money off referrals and minimized the risks of having bariatric surgery in Mexico. According to the report, hundreds of patients were referred to bariatric surgeons in Tijuana by principal Sandy Brimhall, who collected $250 for each referral. Documents show Brimhall used school district resources to transmit HIPPA-protected medical documents. The patient, Jessica Ballandby, said she went to Mexico for sleeve gastrectomy because "It's over 12-15 grand here in the United States." Jessica says the procedure came highly recommended, "Like 60 people I knew from [Arizona] had gone down there." Jessica scheduled the $4,700-surgery with Dr. Mario Alamanza. According to the article, during Ballandby’s surgery, her spleen was cut, “her stomach had been shredded,” and she later developed an infection. Ballandby, who weighed 251 pounds when she had surgery in Mexico, now weighs 102 pounds and continues to lose weight. She has spent close to half a million dollars as a result of her post-surgical complications, none of which is covered by insurance because she chose to have surgery outside of the U.S.

Obesity in the News…

America's Obesity Epidemic Hits the Poor the Hardest (Newsweek)

Obesity may not affect all parts of the U.S. equally and is instead concentrated in areas affected by what researchers described as an “ecology of disadvantage” in a study published in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practices. Researchers combined data from the U.S. Census and the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which includes information on chronic disease rates from the 500 largest American cities, to study patterns of obesity across the country. They found a strong link between obesity levels and sociodemographic factors such as race, income inequality, education level, age and house value. Places with higher concentrations of low-income, minority populations had increased rates of obesity. The highest levels of obesity were found in southern coastal areas of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, New Jersey, Massachusetts, eastern coastal regions of New York and the Great Lakes region around Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Cities in southern California had the highest number of people considered to have a normal weight.

Study: Childhood Obesity Linked to Fatty Liver Disease
(U.S. News and World Report)

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found obesity can have a harmful effect on the liver as young as the age of eight. The study found the larger a child's waist circumference is at the age of three, the more likely that by the age of eight, the child will have markers for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Researchers measured levels of an enzyme called ALT – elevated levels are a marker for liver damage – and the waist circumference of 635 children. Those who had greater weight gain between the ages of three and eight were more likely to have elevated ALT levels. Thirty-five percent of eight-year-olds with obesity had elevated ALT compared with 20 percent of those with normal weight. "Many parents are aware that obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes and other serious metabolic conditions, but there is far less awareness of the link between obesity and liver disease," said Dr. Jennifer Woo Baidal, lead author of the study and professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians.

Early Periods May Heighten Obesity Risk Later (HealthDay via WebMD)

Women who begin puberty early are more likely to be overweight in adulthood, according to a new study in the International Journal of Obesity. Specifically, the earlier a girl has her first period, the higher the likelihood she will have a higher BMI later in life. Researchers at Imperial College London say their findings add to previous observational evidence linkingthe early onset of puberty with adult women's weight. The new analysis, which included hundreds of thousands of women in the U.K., shows that early puberty is itself a risk factor for women becoming overweight. Researchers suggest that gaps in physical and emotional maturity may play a role, as well as the physical effects of hormone changes during puberty that increase the probability of overweight.

Social Barriers May Prevent Weight Loss in Obese Children (News Medical)

Parental mental health or financial stress and childhood behavioral issues may negatively impact weight loss in children, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers recruited 100 families during their first visit to a weight management clinic for children aged between four and 12 years. More than half of the children had severe obesity, and more than half of the families enrolled had moderate to high psychosocial risk scores on the Psychosocial Assessment Tool (PAT). Children from families with moderate-to-high risk PAT scores were more than three times more likely to stop attending the clinic and were more than twice as likely to have an increase in BMI than children from lower-risk families. Additionally, the drop-out rate among the 14 children who were receiving psychological interventions as part of their weight management treatment was less than half that seen in the remaining children.