Lap band more effective for long-term weight loss than dieting: Australian expert

Kimberly GIllan
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Image: Thinkstock

Gastric band surgery is the safest and most effective way to reverse obesity, according to new Australian research.

Lap-band patients lose an average of 26kg and are able to maintain that weight loss for at least 15 years –– a much greater success rate than making lifestyle changes alone.

Professor Paul O'Brien from Monash University led a study that examined more than 3000 gastric banding patients which discovered the long term benefits.

"We know that diet and exercise programs will work for a small group of people but the vast majority who undergo these programs will put the weight back on again," Professor O'Brien told ninemsn.

While he always recommends people attempt lifestyle changes first, if they are still struggling with obesity, O'Brien says gastric banding should be considered.

"If they fail the non-surgical options, they have got to look at something better – they can't just put their head in the sand and say there is nothing else for me," he said.

"Substantial weight loss can change the lives of people who are obese – they can be healthier and live longer."

Professor O'Brien's study confirmed that gastric banding is safe, with no patients involved in the study, which began in 1994, dying from the procedure.

"It isn't dangerous, it doesn't have a huge cost, it's a day-patient procedure," Professor O'Brien said.

"It works for 15 years and I expect at 20 years we will see the same thing."

A quarter of Australian adults are now obese, which is three times the number who were obese in 1980.

Professor O'Brien said obesity is so common because our bodies are programmed to resist weight loss.

"If you lose weight, the body defends that weight by turning up your appetite," he explains.

"Whether you're a healthy weight or not, you can lose weight but there is always this tugging back to where you were. Biologically, that was a valuable thing 100,000 years ago when we were hunter-gatherers and we had to feed up when times were good because at bad times you could die from famine. This is now working against us because we have plenty of food."

Gastric banding appears to be the only thing that works for most obese people.

"You can't escape that appetite except for with something like the band, which controls appetite," he said.

What the body thinks is normal for weight continuously re-sets as we gain weight.

"If you move up 5kg, you'll find it very hard to go back," he says.

"There is a setting mechanism within our brain and it gets re-set. Once it sets at a higher level, it's very hard to set it back."

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