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Bariatric Weight Loss, Bariatric Bone Loss?

Weight Loss Procedures May Thin Bones, Increase Fracture Risk

Bariatric surgery may put patients at risk of bone fractures, researchers conclude.

Bariatric surgery may put patients at risk of bone fractures, researchers conclude.

When it comes to losing weight, there are no quick fixes.  It all boils down to diet and exercise:  increasing the activity levels, and decreasing the caloric levels.  Everything else either doesn’t work or is riddled with side effects.  Not even surgery is void of side effects.

Bariatric surgery procedures – where morbidly obese men and women go under the knife and have their stomachs minimized in one of several ways, like with a lapband – have boomed in popularity over the years.  Approximately 20,000 weight loss procedures were performed in 1995, 104,000 were performed in 2004, and over 200,000 have performed in the last year alone!

While bariatric surgeries have been successful for the majority of those who’ve undergone the belt-squeezing procedure, many haven’t been so lucky.  Some have undergone the procedure, only to re-gain the weight lost just months after the procedure (see Charlie Weis, head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team).

And even though the majority of people have seen positive results, becoming veritable shells of their once hefty selves, their bone strength really takes a hit.

According to Joy Silverburg of Columbia University, there’s been precious little attention paid to the toll bariatric surgery puts on patients’ bone health.  As she said, the surgery is being billed as a “panacea,” a cure-all for losing weight, but people need to be aware of the fact that their bones can turn brittle if not properly provided with bone-saving supplements like calcium.

The Mayo Clinic is currently looking at approximately 300 people who’ve either lost weight the natural way or through bariatric surgery.  After reviewing about 150 cases, a quarter of those who underwent bariatric surgery had some sort of fracture within a few years!

This jibes with Silverburg’s assertion that bone density diminishes by about 10 percent in just 12 months after the procedure.

Because the research is still underway, researchers can’t be sure if it’s the surgery that’s causing the fractures, or if people are being too ambitious with their new found bodies and are putting their bones under stress too quickly for the body to compensate.

I’m inclined to believe it has something to do with the surgery, but I’ll let the study finish before making any definitive conclusions.

In the meantime, surgery should be an option of last resort.  If possible, try and lose weight through the traditional method:  moving a little more, eating a little less.

There’s no short-cut to a healthy weight, not even through surgery.

Sources:
msnbc.msn.com
bariatric-surgery.info

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