Obesity Week '14

By Adam Glasgow - 11/15/2014

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an important international conference held annually for bariatric surgeons and allied health professionals from around the world. Our meeting this year was in Boston, which of course was a great advantage for me to be able to commute back and forth for various events and courses. (If you are interested, feel free to learn more about the conference at www.obesityweek.com.)


It is always rewarding to hear from other weight loss surgeons about their experiences and to confirm that they are pretty similar to my own.  Obesity is a worldwide problem and it is not going away.  There is no quick or easy fix. While the outbreak of serious infectious and communicable diseases grabs our attention and our resources, and appropriately so, it is the constant scourge of chronic disease that threatens our health and longevity the most.

The most impactful discussion of the week dealt with weight loss surgery for children and adolescents.  It is hard to believe but there are young among us with BMI 50, 60, even 70 or 80 and they suffer from diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and many other co-morbidities just as adults. Internationally, surgeons are routinely doing weight loss surgery for younger and younger patients-some as young as 5.  We have to do more to prevent this tragedy.  I often say to parents that the most important gift we give our children is a healthy relationship with food.  More than all the iPhones, and video games, and trips to Disney, more than all the material gifts, how we teach our children to eat and appreciate healthy food will stay with them the longest.

Cakes and cookies and candy, McDonald's and Burger King and Dunkin Donuts are not love and caring; they are junk food and addiction waiting to happen.  We would no more offer our teenager a cigarette and a beer than we should unhealthy food.


The second important message of the week was that weight loss surgery is just a tool. No matter what operation one has, Band, Bypass, Sleeve or even Duodenal Switch, they are just tools and the Achilles heel of them all is weight regain.  If the surgery is not accompanied by lasting behavioral change, increased exercise, and a commitment to lifelong follow-up then weight loss will be fleeting.


As I say all the time, there is no perfect weight loss surgery.  Each operation has it's appropriate indication as well as it's unique pros and cons.  The job of the surgeon is to educate the patient and help him or her make a decision that is best for them.  Obesity is a chronic and lifelong disease.  We will not cure it with surgery but can hope to manage it and mitigate it's devastating effects.

It was encouraging to meet and speak with and listen to so many dedicated and passionate people.  It was inspiring to see and hear about great successes and innovative solutions.  I left the conference excited about the future and eager to help my patients lose weight and keep it off, and to continue to get healthier and happier.


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