A Moment of Science

Stomach Stapling

Thanks to super-sized fast food, endless snack options, and a nation-wide case of couch-potatoitis, nearly 2/3 of all American adults are overweight. Of those, almost 1/3 are obese.

What’s to be done? When all the trendy diets and miracle pills in the world fail, there’s one last resort: weight loss surgery.

Weight loss surgery reduces stomach size. The most common type is gastric bypass surgery. First, a surgeon staples your stomach across the top to create a small pouch. Then your small intestine is cut and attached to the pouch. The result is that food bypasses the upper part of the small intestine, where the majority of calories and nutrients are absorbed by the body, and goes directly to the lower part. You’re able to consume less food and your body absorbs fewer calories. In other words, after surgery you’d be able to eat only a handful of potato chips instead of the entire bag. Try to eat more than your newly stapled stomach can hold, and you’ll most likely feel sick or vomit.

For many people, gastric bypass surgery can work wonders. Within two years most patients lose 50-60% of their excess weight and tend to keep it off.

As with any surgery, there are some potentially serious problems. There’s always the risk of infection. And since post-surgery patients eat a lot less, nutritional deficiencies are common. Finally, because gastric surgery is so new, doctors simply don’t know about the long term ramifications.

Is gastric surgery worthwhile? At the end of the day, you have to weigh the risks of surgery against the risks of remaining obese.

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