On the Lorraine Kelly show last week the serious question of whether morbidly obese teenagers should undergo gastric band surgery was given the customary ill-informed and shallow treatment. Not only did the stand-in presenter make her own prejudice obvious, she talked of gastric banding as being highly risky surgery. It really does annoy me so much that these “look at me I’m so gorgeous and can’t understand why there are fat people in the world” presenters dismiss a safe and effective intervention for chronically obese individuals who have exhausted all other weight loss solutions.
At Healthier Weight, the combined surgical experience of our expert surgeons’ amounts to well over 10,000 gastric bands all implanted without a single fatality. Moreover, at three years’ follow-up we have 60% excess weight loss with significant improvements in mobility, self-esteem and co-morbid conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Similar health benefits have been reported for gastric banding in teenagers, again with zero mortality.
Obese teenagers often endure abuse and discrimination, become depressed and socially isolated and perform less well at school than their normal weight peers. In addition, they carry their health risks into adulthood with the potential for early arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and premature death. Whilst we would all like to think that standard non-surgical treatments could address this problem, there is currently no treatment other than surgery which has been shown to deliver durable, long-term weight loss in either adults or teenagers.
Whilst producers of popular TV shows may not be interested in a serious examination of complex issues underlying teenage obesity, they should at least take seriously their responsibility to provide viewers with a balanced account based on facts rather than ignorance and prejudice.
Dr David Ashton MD PhD
2nd March 2012