Junkfood Science: Cost savings or money maker?

September 25, 2008

Cost savings or money maker?

That was fast. It was just last week, we learned of plans to market bariatric surgery as a preventive health intervention and way to save public healthcare costs.

This week, the Daily Mail published an interview with Carel Le Roux, who was described as a leading obesity expert at Imperial College, London. He is actually with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust bariatric surgery unit.

In the article, Le Roux argues that “the only answer for most people who are obese (up to 20 percent of the population) is surgery.” Not only that, but he suggests that the BMI eligible for surgery be lowered even further. No evidence was provided to support this suggestion.

Diets don't work. Surgery is the only answer to obesity

Condemned to misery: Carol Le Roux says most obesity initiatives fail to recognise that diets don't work... The patients I see have often tried everything. They have lost weight only to put it back on again. The problem's not a lack of willpower, it's physical. For them, obesity surgery is the only option...

Obesity surgery is a lifesaver - and should be as widely available as statins to prevent disease. When statins first came out, they were used only for patients who'd already had a heart attack to prevent another. Now they're used to prevent heart attacks before they occur - up to three million Britons are on them.

Likewise, obesity surgery should be a preventative - offered not just to the 'morbidly obese' (with a body mass index of 35 or above), as now, but also to the 26 percent of Britons who are 'obese' (with a BMI of 30 and above) and who have health complications such as high blood pressure or signs of diabetes. Why not prevent the problems in the first place?

... Government's guidelines say we should be doing ten times the number of gastric bands and bypasses that we are (now one in 10,000 people; I think it should be one in 200)... Studies suggest that if we do these operations, the NHS would make its money back in three years with the savings on medical care, drugs, surgeries and social benefits. If you're an investor, that's a great return...

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