More than two thirds of adults and one third of all children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and the medical effects contribute to a major number of health problems in America. Dr. Metz answers a few commonly asked questions around bariatric weight loss surgery:
1. What is Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?
Bariatric weight loss surgery is surgery for people that are struggling with their weight, and have not had long-term success with diets, exercise, and other strategies. The surgery is reserved for people that are more than about 100 pounds overweight, so it's not for everyone. There are a number of different procedures out there, but the ones most commonly performed in the U.S. are the gastric bypass, the lap adjustable gastric band, and the sleeve gastrectomy. While all of these procedures significantly reduce the size of the stomach, the bypass also acts by limiting the amount of food that a person can absorb from their diet.
2. Who is a candidate for Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?
Insurance companies tend to drive this to some degree, but in most cases, people with a body mass index (which is a ratio of height and weight) greater than 40, or greater than 35 with at least one major medical problem associated with their weight are candidates for surgery. The math gets a little tricky, but it works out to patients that are about 100 pounds overweight.
3. What kind of medical problems are associated with weight?
Being more than 100 pounds overweight is associated with a lot of different health problems. For instance there is a well known association between weight and heart disease, stroke, sleep apnea, joint pain, and even diabetes. And weight loss surgery can make all of those things significantly better, and in a lot of cases, surgery can make those medical problems go away completely.
4. So you're saying that surgery can get rid of diabetes?
Yes. In some patient populations, we're seeing as high as a 94% resolution of Type II diabetes. That's the best treatment we've ever seen for diabetes as health care providers. And think of how many millions of Americans suffer from adult onset diabetes!
5. How does one qualify for Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery?
The best way to find out if a person is a candidate is to start by calculating the BMI, or body mass index. The easiest way to do that is to look up a BMI calculator on the internet and plug in your height and weight. If someone's BMI is greater than 40, or greater than 35 with at least one major medical problem associated with weight, that person would meet the basic qualifications for surgery. After that, I would suggest that person contact his or her local Bariatric surgeon. In most cases, Bariatric teams are made up of not just surgeons, but mental health counselors and dietitians, too. All of those providers work together to with an individual patient to determine if that person is a good candidate for surgery.
6. What is different about the Bariatric & Metabolic Center of Colorado?
The great thing about our program is that we have all of the different services - from surgery, to nutrition counseling, to mental health evaluations all under one roof. And that roof is a beautiful new facility with private rooms and great views, and even a boutique dining service designed by an executive chef! The other thing that's special is the web-based component that we're building. I've had the opportunity to establish an outreach presence for areas in the eastern plains, up in the mountains, and even outside of the country for Bariatric patients; and we're building a web-based support group that lets patients sit in on therapy sessions from as far away as Thailand!
Also, we offer a lot of innovative therapies, like trans-oral surgery, revisional surgery for patients with some of the older types of procedures that used to be performed, and we're building an adolescent program to help the growing population of teens that are struggling with their weight, and are otherwise destined for a shorter life expectancy than their parent's generation.
It's amazing, but we've long been aware of the genetic component of obesity, but there's new evidence in the literature that shows that while obese mothers tend to have obese kids, if those moms have bariatric surgery, their subsequent kids have a much lower incidence of obesity than their older siblings. That means that the environment in a pregnant mom's uterus may determine whether a child at birth is already destined to become obese!
All together, there are a lot of safe, effective surgical options for people that, like 95% of folks on diets, find themselves see-sawing up and down with their weight, and want to either get rid of a lot of medical problems, or prevent them from developing down the road.