A Canadian study has found a startling link between weight-loss surgery and an increased risk of attempted suicides and self-inflicted harm among those who have undergone bariatric surgery. While the study does not conclusively prove a causal link, the data does suggest that the surgery and rise in the number of people trying to harm themselves is linked. Ultimately, the increased risk in suicide attempts seems to be most closely tied to failed surgeries, meaning when people don’t lose as much weight as hoped.
Over the course of 3 years, researchers monitored 8,800 patients who had undergone a weight loss surgery of one type or another. Of those nearly 9,000 patients, 111 of them ended up in the emergency room due to self-inflicted harm. In total, this means that a little over 1 percent of those who underwent surgery ended up harming him or herself. This might not seem like a lot, but it actually marks a 54 percent increase for those who did not undergo the surgery. Such a massive increase is almost certainly not a statistical anomaly.
It should be noted, however, that 9 out of 10 people who inflicted self-harm on themselves had a history of mental issues before the surgery. It is possible that mental issues may be encouraging people to undergo the bariatric surgery in the first place. Further, the propensity to inflict self-harm also appears to be tied to unsuccessful surgeries that do not produce the desired weight loss.
Most of the incidents of self harm happened in the one to three year range, which suggests that treatment and care may have to be extended beyond the initial surgery in order to monitor the wellbeing of patients. Unfortunately, many patients are not provided with long-term follow ups and monitoring after the surgery is performed.
For many health care professionals, the high risk of self-inflicted harm comes as a clear warning sign that the surgery and the immediate follow up are not enough. As Dr. Amir Ghaferi puts it, “While we are clear and confident about the medical benefits of weight loss, especially through weight-loss surgery, I think we’re not as attentive to the potential psychological benefits or harms of it.”
Intentional drug overdoses were identified in three out of the four cases. This is especially worrisome because those who have undergone bariatric surgery are more vulnerable to drug overdoses, both intentional and accidental.
Most of the patients examined in the study had undergone gastric bypass surgery, a type of bariatric surgery used to essentially shrink the size of the stomach. Doing so tends to decrease people’s appetite, thus helping them shed pounds.
Indeed, one of the biggest risks of gastric bypass surgery is that people will not get enough nutrients afterwards.
Is Gastric Bypass surgery effective?
So if self-harm appears to be largely due to gastric bypass surgery failing, does the surgery actually work? If so, why is it failing for some? Already, the National Institute of Health has concluded that the surgery is more effective than other non-surgery methods. Most people lose weight, and they keep it off.
Gastric bypass has proven to an effective method for fighting weight gain and obesity. Further, with 35 percent of Americans now obese, gastric bypass surgery will likely become more popular in the future. Industry proponents claim that the surgery on average results in an extra 57 pounds of weight being lost.
Other research has suggested that as many as two-thirds of all individuals who lose weight through dieting gain it back within five years. Gastric bypass the seems to be a longer term solution, helping people keep weight off more permanently.
Concerns have emerged over potential medical complications, but less than .5% of people die from complications from the surgery. Certainly, this rate is nothing to shrug off, but it is important to remember that many people who undergo surgery are, in fact, in very poor health already. Poor health has already been linked to increased mortality rate for people undergoing surgeries.
Still, the surgery will not work for everyone. For one, although appetite will be repressed, if people do not improve their eating habits, they may struggle to gain weight. If a person drinks sugary drinks all day, for example, even if just sipping on them, it will be hard for them to lose weight. Second, other factors can affect weight loss, such as thyroid problems.
Gastric Bypass surgery explained
Gastric bypass surgery is one of the more extreme efforts people take to lose weight. Generally, people only resort this surgery in cases of extreme morbid obesity, and/or after more conventional methods, such as dieting and exercise.
Basically, surgeons will divide the stomach into two parts, one smaller and one larger. Both parts of the stomach are then connected to the smaller intestine, but food will only go into the smaller part of the stomach. This reduces how much people can eat, and results in them feeling full much more quickly.
If you’re looking for some more detailed knowledge on how the surgery works, check out this video:
Obesity is a Serious Problem Around the World
Obesity has emerged as one of the biggest threats to health across the world. While obesity has long been an issue in some highly developed countries, such as the United States, it is increasingly becoming a problem for less developed countries as well.
For example, obesity rates in Malaysia, a middle-income Asian country, are believed to be as high as 49 percent for men and 44 percent for women. This makes Malaysia, by far, Asia’s fattest major country, though obesity rates are actually higher in some Pacific Island nations. In South Korea, the overall obesity rate has reached 32.3 percent, while in Pakistan it has jumped to 30.7 percent.
Obesity isn’t all about looks either. The health condition has been linked to increased risks Type 2 Diabetes, a serious disease that can kill people, and result in amputated limbs. Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease, one of the world’s leading killers.
Somewhat shockingly, obesity has actually overtaken malnutrition in terms of the number of people killed each year. This recent development marked a major milestone for humanity. For thousands of years many civilizations have centered around producing enough food to feed populations. Now, most societies may actually have too much food on hand. Of course, huge numbers of people are dying from a lack of access to enough high quality food, and famines still regularly occur.
Countries are fighting back. Mexico, for example, introduced a 10 percent soda tax. In the US, Federal officials have focused on healthy school lunches and increased education. Still, for now it appears that governments are losing the battle.