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Shortcut to flab loss

Lean dream Bariatric surgery is now the hottest weight-loss fad among the obese. Sanchita Sharma writes. Watch that weight! | Size matters

health and fitness Updated: Sep 18, 2011 00:30 IST
Sanchita Sharma

Jack Osbourne morphed into an adrenaline junkie to lose 25 kg in six months for the reality show by the same name. Apart from a strict diet and exercise regimen, Osbourne – who, till his makeover, was just known as the overweight, drug-dependent son of Ozzy 'Black Sabbath' Osbourne - ran with the bulls in Pamplona Spain and trained in Muay Thai (kickboxing) in Thailand to get fit enough to shoot for a centrefold in the buff for a women's magazine.

In India, people have discovered easier ways to lose weight. Bariatric surgery has grown ten-fold in the last decade, with surgeons doing 4,000 cases in 2010 compared to a handful a decade ago when it just started. Watch that weight!

Last week, BJP heavyweight Nitin Gadkari chose to go under the scalpel to control his appetite and lower his weight from a colossal 130 kg. He underwent a gastric bypass surgery to make his stomach smaller and allow food to bypass part of the small intestine to lower fat absorption. He can now eat just one-third of what he used to, with surgeons also expecting the surgery to help control his diabetes, which had started to affect kidney function.

As much as lowering weight, bariatric surgery helps to control high blood sugar levels in very obese people. "It's not a shortcut for weight loss but an essential and effective treatment to treat obesity-related disorders such as diabetes and hypertension. The surgery is meant or people who are morbidly obese with at least one related disease, such as hypertension, arthritis, sleep apnea (interrupted breathing while sleeping), acid reflux or diabetes," says Dr Pradeep Chowbey, director, minimal access, metabolic and bariatric surgery, Max Healthcare.

Data at Dr Chowbey's clinic shows that the surgery helped control diabetes in 82% patients, many of whom were on insulin injections. "The results are better for those who have had diabetes for less than 10 years, with a decade of the disease lowering success in diabetes control to 60-70%," says Dr Chowbey. After surgery, most people begin lose an average of 6-8 kg a month, usually stopping when they are about 10% of their healthy weight. This weight loss is permanent.

The surgery is usually done laprascopically, with the surgeon operating through four small incisions in the abdomen. It costs Rs2-3 lakh and needs up to three days of hospitalisation. The patient is back on his feet from the day of the surgery.

In India, 13% women and 9% men are either overweight or obese, shows the National Family Health Survey (2005-06), which is the most comprehensive pan India health data available. With more than one study showing that Indians are at risk of diabetes and heart disease at a Body Mass Index – BMI is an accurate indicator of your healthy weight (see box) – below the international cut-offs, national guidelines for healthy weight recommends Indians have lower weight to stay healthy. Size matters

"If options of diet, exercise and medicines are applied to lower obesity levels, diabetes and heart disease can be prevented in nearly 15% of the adult population (7 crore people)," says Dr Anoop Misra, director of the department of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis group of Hospitals.

If not, there's always the more painful but equally effective option of surgery.