Bariatric surgery has been somewhat pigeonholed as only a weight loss procedure. The two terms are interchangeable even though weight loss alone is genuinely not the primary goal of the procedure, nor is it the ultimate benefit. We like to think of the weight loss provided by surgery as an excellent side effect, while other markers of success would be our primary goals. Of course, we also recognize that we are all human, and losing weight is the most straightforward and obvious measure of success. Not only does the scale show our progress every day, but how we look in the mirror plays a big part in longer-term motivation.
That Said, What Are the Benefits Beyond Weight Loss?
The primary and most significant benefit of bariatric surgery is the improvement or resolution of obesity-related diseases, also known as comorbidities, in people suffering from obesity. This includes hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), obstructive sleep apnea, type two diabetes, chronic acid reflux, known as gastroesophageal reflux, and more. Further, patients may be on several medications that can cause side effects. Today’s bariatric procedures, including the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass, and duodenal switch, along with new techniques recently approved or in development, can effectively mitigate, improve, or resolve many of these comorbidities. Most patients can further wean off their medications to some degree. Additionally, addressing these diseases improves the all-important quality of life and, in most cases, extends lifespan.
Excess weight is detrimental to our joints. Mechanically, every extra pound of weight on our bodies places about 4 pounds of extra pressure on our supportive joints like the knees. This can lead to accelerated joint degradation, known as osteoarthritis, which eventually can cause disability and the need for joint replacement surgery. However, we also know that visceral fat – the bad fat that we carry around our abdomen – can release pro-inflammatory chemicals around the body that attack the joints and further speed up osteoarthritis.
The Immune System
It is no coincidence that many severe cases of COVID-19 were in the obese population. The pro-inflammatory cytokines released by visceral fat suppress the immune system and allow infections like Covid to take hold more readily.
Social and Professional Opportunities
Unfortunately, the stigma of obesity is still real. Many do not yet understand (or refuse to admit) that obesity is a chronic disease that must be understood and treated in the same way as Cancer, heart disease, or any other major disorder that we as humans deal with. To that end, many patients decline to pursue social and professional opportunities due to their excess weight. After surgery, many of these patients find that their lives change dramatically for the better, both in social circles and at work.
The list of benefits beyond weight loss goes on and on. Excess weight and obesity cause both physical and mental issues. Treating this disease through bariatric surgery can reverse many of these issues.
Is There Another Name We Should Use?
Nomenclature is essential, and it would be ideal if we eventually replaced bariatric and weight loss surgery with the term “metabolic” surgery. After all, the surgery targets the most critical metabolic diseases associated with excess weight and obesity. As a case in point, your BMI may be within normal ranges, yet the fat you carry around the abdomen puts you at high risk for heart disease. This abdominal fat is a better predictor of heart disease than BMI. Again, it’s not all about weight.
MIIS is a comprehensive weight loss center dedicated to surgical and non-surgical treatment of obesity and excess weight. Through a combination of supervised lifestyle, change, medical therapy, and surgery, virtually anyone looking to lose a significant amount of weight can benefit from our programs. We look forward to seeing you at your consultation so we can address your concerns comprehensively and collaboratively.