Overweight: Is Gastric Banding Surgery for You?

Aug 3, 2008 | Eating Right

There is an increased trend for the overweight to resort to invasive methods such as lap-band surgery to help overcome their obesity battle. However, will undergoing surgery to increase the feeling of fullness lead to permanent weight loss, or is it another method that bypasses the true solution to this growing problem?

What is Gastric band surgery?

Lap-band (or laparoscopic adjustable gastric band) surgery is an operation for people with a Body mass Index (BMI) greater than 35 (Click here to determine your BMI) whereby an inflatable band is inserted around the top portion of your stomach with a cord and valve that gets positioned under your skin so that the band can be inflated or deflated. It works by being placed in a location that has nerve endings that tell your brain how full you feel. When food enters the top section of your stomach (about 30ml or 1/8 cup), the pressure on the band stimulates these nerves to tell your brain you are full, hopefully preventing you from wanting to eat more. It does not cut out any part of your digestive system or bypass anything and can be easily reversed if needed. Lap-band surgery slows down the entry of food into your stomach, making you feel full faster and for longer. Once the food has passed the restricted area, the stomach remains its normal size and digestion continues as usual.

You can see a video of the procedure here. Warning, the second part of the video is real footage and should not be watched whilst eating red meat!

There is a lot of stigma about lap-band surgery. Many happy customers have enjoyed the great results from lap-band therapy, including British TV presenter Fern Britton (click here to view her 2 minute chat). However, it is evident that it can be viewed as a ‘cheaters’ way to fat loss, or an extreme measure and sign of weakness of will.

If obesity is causing major health issues and other weight loss measures have failed, then lap-band therapy should be seen as a good solution. In fact 3 in 4 type 2 diabetes sufferers recover in full from their diabetes following surgery, and sleep apnoea suffers are almost always cured. It is not always a successful operation though, and about 44 in 100 patients have to go back for more operations usually because the band has slipped, they feel sick, or they aren’t losing enough weight. Other complications include;

  • Burping after eating
  • Infections
  • Abscesses
  • Feeling sick
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn

Would you do it (or recommend it to someone)?

Before you answer that question, be aware of a few more things;

  • The operation will only succeed if you change your eating patterns and exercise more, so if your previous attempts to lose weight failed because you didn’t stick to your diet and exercise program, then this probably won’t work.
  • If you overeat due to emotional reasons, rather than because you get hungry all the time, or if even when you feel full, you still eat, then it probably won’t work.
  • Liquids still pass through very quickly so if you drink a lot of high sugar/calorie drinks, then it probably won’t work.

It’s a tough one isn’t it? On one hand, if someone has serious health issues like type 2 diabetes then this could be a life saver, but on the other hand, if they don’t follow a diet and exercise regime after the operation, it could have no effects or worsen their health. As with most weight loss discussions, the beginning point should be getting a person’s head right. Answering the hard questions about why they over eat, and putting support mechanisms in place will set them up for not only weight loss but also a happier outlook on life. However, if these avenues have been exhausted and the person is extremely unhealthy, then there might be a place for lap band surgery after all.

What are your thoughts on lap band surgery? Is it cheating, or a helping hand?

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