What is Bariatric Surgery?

Obesity.  On the rise in Malaysia for so long, it’s now become a major public health concern.  This nation now has the dubious title of “Most Obese Country in Asia“* and it’s clear that advising people to diet and exercise just isn’t working.

That’s why there’s been an explosion in the number of people undergoing weight loss surgery in Malaysia.  When diet and exercise fail to do the job, doctors may suggest any number of weight loss surgery procedures, known collectively as Bariatric Surgery.

And so it goes: as the obesity problem grows, so does the call for bariatric surgery in Malaysia..but before we explore this surgical (and drastic) means of losing weight, let’s take a look at how we as a nation got here in the first place.


Where is All This Obesity Coming From?

To understand the obesity explosion in Malaysia, we must take a look at the long list of causes.  These are societal developments which aren’t going away, but are rather becoming part of our modern culture.

Of course Malaysia isn’t alone in this.  The problems are common among all developed nations- in the US, for example, more than one-third of adults are obese.  According to a new study published by The Lancet, 45.3% of Malaysians are overweight.  That makes this country the heaviest in Asia, with South Korea on our heels at 33.2%, followed closely by Pakistan and China*.

The saddest part is, obesity in children is on the rise as well.


So what is it that’s causing all this obesity?

It’s the double threat of a more sedentary lifestyle combined with consumption of foods high in fat and sugar that produces epic obesity problems…and almost none of the developed countries in the world are exempt.  Along with a rise in obesity comes a whole squadron of scary issues caused by all that extra weight.

These issues include:

  1. Obesity-related conditions like stroke, type-2 diabetes…and even cancer.
  2. Then there are psychological issues stemming from the stigma of carrying excess weight around with you all the time.
  3. Finally, there are the financial ramifications of being obese, both personally and nationally.  The simple fact of the matter is: obese people incur more medical costs than people of normal weight.

These are all sad but true results of an ever-heavier population, making it clearer than ever that people need help.


Why People Need Surgery to Lose Weight

People need help losing weight, and we’ve seen three reasons why being obese is simply no good for anyone.  The most compelling reason, however, is the first on the list: obesity is dangerous to health and in some cases it will shorten the life of the person who is obese and can’t seem to lose the weight no matter what.

Lifestyle change is the healthiest, best, safest, long-term solution to losing weight.  Nevertheless, it’s nearly impossible for a lot of people to successfully change their habits enough to make a difference.

There are a lot of reasons why some people end up obese and others don’t.

  • Sometimes it’s genetics playing a dirty trick on those unfortunate enough to have inherited a “fat gene”.
  • Sometimes its poverty: cheap food is often the food with the most calories and the least amount of nutrients.
  • Sometimes it’s illness that causes obesity, like hypothyroidism or depression.
  • Sometimes it’s being too busy to cook a nutritious meal.
  • Sometimes it’s simply ignorance about nutrition or a belief that you simply can’t lose weight.


Whatever the reason may be, there’s clearly a need for bariatric surgery in Malaysia, if we want to combat this public health issue and save lives.

With that, let’s see what it actually means to have bariatric weight loss surgery, and what types are available for people who truly need help from a doctor when it comes to losing weight.


What Bariatric Surgery Does

Bariatric surgery is a general term covering several types of weight loss surgery procedures.  Although there are 5 different methods used by doctors, each of them works on one of the following principles:

  1. Restriction. This is a simple concept: make the stomach smaller so it can only hold a small amount of food.  The patient feels full quicker and the result is fewer calories are taken in.
  2. Malabsorption. This type of surgery is performed on the small intestine.  That’s where calories and nutrients get absorbed.  Therefore, by shortening the small intestine, the amount of calories absorbed by the body is reduced.

In both cases, surgeons are altering your digestive system with the end goal of fewer calories reaching your system.  Surgery is no light undertaking, which is why doctors will only recommend bariatric surgery when all other attempts at losing weight have failed.


Types of Bariatric Weight Loss Surgery

  While we won’t go into detail right here about the types of bariatric surgery in Malaysia today, it’s important to recognize the five main procedures you will encounter as you explore options for your own weight loss journey.  Here they are, along with which of the two methods they employ to help obese people lose weight:

  1. Adjustable Gastric Band (restriction)
  2. Roux-En Y Gastric Bypass (RYGB) (restriction and malabsorptive surgery)
  3. Sleeve Gastrectomy (restriction)
  4. Intragastric Balloon (restriction)
  5. Single Anastomosis Duodenal Jejunal Bypass (malabsorptive surgery)

Whichever method of bariatric weight loss surgery your doctor may prescribe, it’s important to take into consideration the causes of your own obesity.

If you skipped over that part in this article, then go back and read that section.  It’s important to understand your condition so that if and when you do finally opt for bariatric surgery, you’ll keep the weight off and go on to live a healthy life, long after your surgery has taken place.

*Source: “Malaysia’s Obesity Rate Highest in Asia”  The Star Online.  Retrieved 5 March 2015.


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