More Swedes choose surgery as path to slimmer waistlines

The number of Swedes choosing gastric bypass surgery is increasing steadily.

Stockholm’s Danderyd hospital alone performed 250 operations in 2007 and expects to perform at least 350 in 2008.

Officials from Skåne county in southern Sweden reckon the number of operations will triple in 2008.

Svenska Dagbladet reports that several recent studies point to a continued increase in gastric bypass operations throughout Sweden.

Erik Näslund, a professor and senior physician at Danderyd hospital says referrals for the operation continue to climb.

Näslund also contributed to a report showing that many more Swedes ought to have gastric bypass surgery.

“According to our calculations, the number of operations needs to increase from last year’s figure of 2,400 to at least 10,000 per year,” he said.

In 2004, Stockholm’s county council called for halving the county’s number of obese residents by 2013.

But both Näslund, opposition politicians, as well as officials from Sweden’s Obesity Association (Överviktigas riksförbund) are skeptical as to whether the goal can be met.

“They are not going to succeed because they haven’t devoted enough money for the care of the obese. Those who undergo operations are only the tip of the iceberg,” said Stefan Wallerek, a spokesperson for the association.

Wallerek explained that overweight people are heavily stigmatized and ashamed of their condition.

However, Birgitta Rydberg of the Liberal Party remains optimistic.

As the county council cabinet member responsible for the obesity reduction plan, Rydberg points to a lack of good statistics about obesity in Stockholm county.

“We know that the number of gastric bypass operations has increased and in my judgment they will continue to increase this year,” she said.

“But that doesn’t mean that the number of obese people is increasing in Stockholm county.”

Rydberg would prefer that discussion of the goal itself is premature.

“For now what matters is starting over with better measures that allow the health system to work hard on these issues,” she said.