Dieting is dated. Surgery is perhaps the only way to treat obesity permanently, scientists now say.
The question with obesity is not losing weight, but maintaining the weight loss for a healthier life. Studies are showing that the human body undergoes hormonal change when a person goes on diet, making the body want to produce more fat.
The only solution is to tie down the hormonal changes, which is possible only through surgical intervention, says Rachel Batterham of University College London.
"Once you start losing weight by decreasing calorie intake, your body interprets this as starvation and goes into emergency status, fighting to lay down fat deposits where possible," explains Batterham. "Therefore you are fighting against your body when losing weight".
What does surgery actually achieve that dieting cannot? "Surgery is currently the only effective treatment for obesity. It not only helps people lose weight by physically decreasing the amount they can eat, but also alters their hormone profile, meaning they feel less hungry and therefore find it much easier to maintain weight loss," she says.
The scientists led by Batterham want stomach surgery to be offered to overweight men and women as a form of disease prevention, in much the same way statins are offered to prevent heart disease.
Given that obesity is fast attaining a disease status the world over and particularly in Britain, an increasing number of men and women will fall in the eligible category for bariatric surgery, where the stomach is stapled or bypassed altogether by diverting food directly to the small intestine, says Carel Le Roux of Imperial College London.
In Britain, a gastric band operation costs the NHS about 5,500 pounds and a gastric bypass costs about 9,000 pounds.
"About one in four people in Britain is obese and this is projected to rise to 60 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women by 2050," Batterham is quoted as saying in The Independent. "Future research will focus on developing drugs that work in the same way as gastric surgery in altering the hormone levels that control hunger and feeling full."