The Folly Of Bariatric Surgery

| August 27, 2015

I have never liked the idea of bariatric (weight loss) surgery. The term covers gastric bypass and gastric band operations, techniques initially developed as a ‘last hope’ option for morbidly obese people who had failed to lose weight by other means. The popularity of these procedures has rocketed in recent years and it’s easy to see why – they offer the prospect of rapid weight loss and, as a bonus, possible remission from type 2 diabetes. But the complications and risks of bariatric surgery, and its long term effectiveness, make it look far less attractive.

The rapid weight loss effect of bariatric surgery caught the headlines a few years ago. But now the results of follow-up studies on those first cohorts of patients are in and they reveal that many people simply put the weight they lost back on. Researchers in Israel have found significant weight regain and a decrease in remission rates of diabetes and other obesity-related disorders in the years following a procedure called laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.1 And they aren’t alone – another study in Chicago has shown that 37 per cent of patients having a gastric bypass have excessive weight regain just one year after surgery.2

Weight loss surgery is not the answer to the current obesity epidemic since it is unlikely to be effective long-term. Nor is it a miracle cure for type 2 diabetes. But if you opt for this kind of surgery, these drawbacks could be the least of your worries – since it also comes with some really serious health risks.

According to one study in the US, up to one in 25 gastric bypass operations results in life-threatening complications, permanent disability or death.3 Between 10 and 20 per cent of bariatric surgery patients need a follow-up operation to correct major or minor complications and very many more experience ongoing digestive problems like acid reflux, vomiting, diarrhoea, gallstones and peptic ulcers.

What kind of world have we created where we have to remove or disconnect perfectly healthy body organs and run the risk of death or permanent disability, in order to deal with the consequences of an overabundance of industrially processed junk food?

Let’s face it, our stomachs are there for a good reason – to digest food in order to supply our bodies with the nutrients they need. So it is no surprise that nutritional deficiencies are common after weight loss surgery. According to the world-renowned Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in the US, nearly 30 per cent of patients who have such operations develop nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia, osteoporosis and metabolic bone disease.

Soluble fibre is safer than the surgeon’s knife

There may be a small number of morbidly obese patients for whom the weight loss benefit of bariatric surgery makes it worth the substantial health risks and discomfort it involves. But it should never be seen as a quick and easy alternative to a healthy diet and adequate exercise.

For most of us who need to lose weight, there is a better and safer way. Modern food processing has resulted in the mass production of cheap, energy-dense foods that are generally high in refined sugars and fats but low in fibre. Getting enough fibre into your diet can bring numerous health benefits.

It is well known that high-fibre foods make you feel full, and it isn’t just because they physically take up space in your stomach. Research carried out at Imperial College, London has shown that soluble fibre is fermented by bacteria in your colon to produce a short-chain fatty acid called acetate, which acts directly on the brain to suppress appetite.4

So, before you start thinking about getting your stomach stapled, try upping your intake of the following foods:

  • Pulses (e.g. lentils, red kidney beans and edamame beans)
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Apricots
  • Onions, leeks and garlic
  • Oats, oat bran and barley
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts and broccoli
  • Linseeds and psyllium husks

Just a word of caution – these foods may initially cause some wind and bloating if you are not used to them, so introducing them into your diet gradually is usually better than going overboard!

And while on the subject of diet, have you gone back to using real butter or are you still eating that look-alike stuff? In case you need any more reasons why butter is best, a recent study found it contains a fatty acid that could reverse metabolic syndrome (sometimes called ‘pre-diabetes’). More about this in my next blog post.

 Wishing you the best of health,

Martin Hum
PhD DHD Nutritionist
for Real Diabetes Truth

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Bear in mind we are not addressing anyone’s personal situation and you should rely on this for informational purposes only. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.


  1. Golomb I, Ben David M, Glass A, Kolitz T, Keidar A. Long-term metabolic effects of laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy. JAMA Surg. 2015 Aug 5 (Online ahead of print).
  2. Cooper TC, Simmons EB, Webb K, Burns JL, Kushner RF. Trends in weight regain following Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) bariatric surgery. Obes Surg. 2015; 25(8):1474-1481.
  3. Birkmeyer NJ, Dimick JB, Share D et al. Hospital complication rates with bariatric surgery in Michigan. JAMA. 2010; 304(4):435-442.
  4. Frost G, Sleeth ML, Sahuri-Arisoylu M et al. The short-chain fatty acid acetate reduces appetite via a central homeostatic mechanism. Nat Commun. 2014; 5:3611.
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Category: Obesity and Weight Loss

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