Bariatric Surgery: Debunked
Bariatric surgeries were first started in 1965 by the father of obesity surgery, Dr Edward Mason. 50 years on, we speak to Dr HG Baladas, Specialist in General Surgery & Consultant, Raffles Surgery Centre to understand the myths behind the science and art of bariatric surgeries.
Myth 1) After the surgery, I can eat all I want and not grow fat.
Bariatric surgery can help you in your journey to a healthier you. It will make you feel full after a smaller meal and hence help you decrease your daily food intake. However, it’s not a magic bullet whereby you will become slimmer without effort. You need to adhere to a few rules for eating and exercising. Should you choose to eat the wrong foods and not exercise, you may not lose enough weight.
Myth 2) Anyone dissatisfied with their weight can have bariatric surgery.
This is incorrect. The minimum Body Mass Index (BMI) for bariatric surgery in Asian patients is 32.5 though we may perform it on very selected patients with BMI 30 to 32.5 who have severe obesity-related medical conditions. In addition, they must have tried to lose weight by other methods and failed.
Myth 3) Bariatric surgery is dangerous.
All forms of surgery come with risks, including complications and death. Modern advances in anaesthesia and surgery have largely reduced the risks. Obesity kills too. Morbidly obese patients may have life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and sleep apnoea. As such the benefits of bariatric surgery far outweigh the risks of mortality from the surgery.
Myth 4) With the surgery, I will immediately lose weight and become healthy.
It will take time for the effects of the surgery to be seen. For the majority, average weight loss of around four kg per month is normal. For successful weight loss, close follow-up is critical, especially in the first year. After which, patients will need to see their doctor between one to four times annually. In general, patients will lose 20 to 40 kg over six months to two years though some super obese people may lose up to 70 kg.
Myth 5) Bariatric surgery involves stapling my stomach.
There are various forms of bariatric surgery ranging from the lapband, which does not involve cutting or stapling to gastric sleeve, and bypass, which is entirely performed by stapling. At Raffles, we perform the gastric band, sleeve and bypass surgeries. These operations are all performed through key-hole surgery.
Myth 6) My nutrition will be affected after the surgery.
After bariatric surgery, patients are required to take supplements as the procedure may affect absorption of vitamins and minerals. The degree of nutritional disturbance depends on the type of operation. It is most pronounced in bypass operations and less in restrictive operations.
Your surgeon and dietitian will work together to help you plan your meals sufficiently so that your nutrition and health will not be affected. For most cases, overall health, energy levels, sex drive and mobility will improve post-surgery.
Did You Know?
A normal stomach holds four cups of food. After bariatric surgery, it holds about two cups of food.