Friday, December 3, 2010

Weight Loss Surgery Candidates Soon To Increase?

A leading pharmaceutical company recently requested a change in weight cut-off for the increasingly popular LAP-BAND weight loss surgery. If the FDA approves the change, overweight Americans with a Body Mass Index (BMI) as low as 30 could qualify for this drastic weight loss method.

Current guidelines indicate that weight loss surgery is appropriate for people who have failed to lose weight through diet and exercise and have a body mass index of 40 or greater. Surgery is also permitted for a small number of individuals with a BMI of 35 and above if that person has at least one serious health problem that is tied to obesity, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. If the weight limit is further lowered as requested, the updated lap-band threshold would allow someone with a BMI of 35 (with no associated health problems) or an individual who is barely obese (but suffering from diabetes or high blood pressure) to undergo this quick-fix procedure.

Picture this: Today, someone who is 5’7 would have to weigh a minimum of 220 lbs to be eligible for the surgery. Under the new guidelines however, that candidate could weigh as little as 190 and still qualify. What are the pro’s and con’s of this situation?

1. LAP-BAND weight loss surgery is less invasive than a formal gastric by-pass procedure. It can provide a safe, reliable means of helping the obese lose weight when more traditional methods have failed.
2. Many Americans suffer from obesity related illnesses such as hypertension and type two diabetes. Losing weight, regardless of the method, can bring these numbers back within a healthy range.
3. A BMI of 30, although not considered morbidly obese, still typically indicates unhealthy eating habits and issues with portion control. LAP-BAND surgery reduces overall food consumption and can help teach healthier habits over time. Anyone who falls within the “obese” BMI range can benefit from this.

1. Millions of American fall into the 30-35 BMI range, meaning that numerous individuals might choose surgery as a weight loss method rather than putting effort into revamping their diet and committing to an exercise routine. Do we really want to encourage more people to take the surgery route?
2. Like any surgery, LAP-BAND involves numerous risks. If thousands more of these surgeries were performed on overweight candidates who were suddenly eligible, more surgery-related complications/deaths could occur.
3. Lowering the bar for a surgical option before weight lowering medications are available sends the message that surgery is a more feasible option than natural or pharmaceutical alternatives. Instead of being a “last ditch effort”, surgery might become the first thing people turn to. Is this a message we want to send to the American people?

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