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In recent decades, medical professionals have created much needed advancements in bariatrics, the field dedicated to the study and treatment of obesity, because of the increasing rate of weight gain in the United States.
A 2005 article in the American Journal of Medical Sciences states, "Obesity and sedentary lifestyles are major contributing factors to (metabolic) syndrome and provide opportunities for interventions."
Dr. Christina Richards, an expert in bariatrics who has been practicing since 1999, said, "Currently, over 25 percent of the population of the United States is overweight or obese. We still need to get a handle on food and eating to keep people at healthy weights, but we are developing better obesity treatments and understanding."
Though much work still needs to be done to understand the causes of extreme weight gain and its genetic and molecular components, recently the medical understanding of the causes of obesity has improved, and technological advancements have made surgeries and other treatments more effective and less invasive.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, doctors began investigating surgeries for obese and overweight people that might also cure a host of associated, weight-related diseases, including diabetes, chronic headaches, hypertension, high cholesterol, liver disease, sleep apnea, venous stasis disease and arthritis.
In the 1950s, the first surgeries done purely for the purpose of weight loss were performed at the University of Minnesota, termed jejunoileal bypasses. The procedure caused patients to lose weight as a result of malabsorption, or the body being unable to use all ingested food, but many complications resulted. Doctors worked to create better options for patients who wanted to lose weight.
In the 1960s, two doctors observed that patients who had parts of their stomachs removed were successful in losing weight. These medical professionals pioneered the first gastric bypass surgeries, which have changed in aim and specific technique over the decades since.
Doctors have spent years experimenting and observing which specific techniques are the most effective and result in the least number of complications.
Today, "the most common bariatric surgery procedures are gastric bypass, sleeve gastrectomy, adjustable gastric band, and biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch," according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
Bariatric procedures today
Many advancements make today's gastric bypass surgeries safer and more common than those in the past: "Roux-en-Y limb of intestine, or RYGBP, is the most commonly performed operation for weight loss in the United States. In the U.S, approximately 140,000 gastric bypass procedures will be performed in 2005."
Gastric bypass surgeries have become less and less invasive, with many done through laparoscopy, or surgery done with a fiber-optic instrument inserted through five or six very small incisions. This has many benefits over an "open" gastric bypass, including less chance of infection, less time for recovery, and a shorter amount of time that the average patient is hospitalized.
Among the positives of a gastric bypass are that the surgery produces significant long-term weight loss (60–80 percent excess weight loss) and restricts the amount of food that can be consumed thereafter. They also produce favorable changes in gut hormones that reduce appetite and help patients feel fuller.
Learning more about options
If you're concerned about your weight and health, and want to find out more about options for dealing with these issues, visit Salt Lake Regional Medical Center's website. Take the quiz below to see if you would qualify for medical weight loss.
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