Considering Gastric Bypass Surgery? This Works Just as Well

Now that obesity is officially a disease (as declared by the AMA) insurance should more readily cover gastric bypass surgeries like the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass.

Personally, I can’t think of a quicker way to absolutely destroy your long term health than to completely replumb the way your GI tract was designed. I mean heck–what was Mother Nature thinking anyway? We can make your GI tract better (faster, stronger. Cue “Six Million Dollar Man” theme and throw in some of those mechanical cranking sounds that you’d hear when Steve Austin threw an iron beam…).

There is no doubt that people who undergo gastric bypass surgery lose weight. The most common gastric bypass procedure done in the US is the Roux-en-Y bypass, which is derived from the French would Roux, a procedure used by plumbers to redirect water from the shower directly into the toilet.

Interestingly, researchers have had a hard time finding exactly why the Roux-en-Y surgery works so well in the first few months for weight loss. The nasty little secret few surgeons will mention is the increased rate of colon cancer, bone loss, potential need to have a portion of your pancreas removed, high likelihood of nutritional deficiencies and high likelihood of weight regain in 5 years. And the procedure is essentially not reversible–your GI tract is screwed up for the rest of your life.

Most of the theories center around two aspects–GLP-1 production and very low calorie diets. GLP-1 is the “anti-diabetic” hormone that is produced by your small intestine and is the subject of most of the new diabetic research over the past 5-10 years. It may be that, with such a massive change to the GI tract, your body ups the production of GLP-1 in an attempt to expand the GI tract tissues and suck what little nutrients are present out of the calories that you are taking in. This may even be one of the reasons for the increased risk of colon cancer and pancreatic problems in Roux-en-Y surgery patients.

As for the question of calorie restriction, this particular study goes a long way towards addressing this question. Researchers compared a small group of diabetic patients who underwent the Roux-en-Y bypass to a similar group of diabetic patients who spent 21 days on a very low calorie diet that closely mirrored those who had the surgery (500 calories / day). This number may sound familiar–it’s the same amount of calories taken in the HCG / Simeon’s diet protocol as well as the weight loss program that we offer in our office.

For those of you who have already had the surgery, you may want to stop reading here. After 21 days, the weight loss was the same. Further, changes in insulin sensitivity, β-cell function, fasting glucose and fructosamine levels were similar. In other words, the caloric restriction, at least in this study, was the most powerful tool and not the surgery. And, as mentioned, you’re stuck with the surgery.

Some may say that maintaining a 500 calorie per day diet is just too hard. Really?? Compared to having a major gastrointestinal surgery that completely screws up your body’s ability to digest and absorb nutrients?

Either way, the next time you or a friend go to an informational meeting at one of the weight loss centers (i.e. surgical centers) ask the presenter if a very low calorie diet can help instead of surgery. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how they answer the question.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.