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Fat Swedes need scalpel after gastric bypass op

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Fat Swedes need scalpel after gastric bypass op
A woman has her waist measured. File photo: TT
10:40 CET+01:00
The vast majority of gastric bypass patients in Sweden are happy with the results - an average loss of two thirds of their body weight - but almost half have to resort to plastic surgery, new long-term research showed.

Uppsala University researcher David Edholm has examined patients who went through gastric bypass surgery 17 to seven years ago. Most not only shed weight, but managed to keep it off and 80 percent of the patients in the study said they were satisfied with the operation. 

"It's encouraging to be able to show good results, not least because it's from one of the few studies in the world that really went far back to follow up," Edholm said in a statement on Wednesday that also dubbed obesity the public health epidemic of the 21st century.

A patient in Sweden qualifies for gastric bypass on the national health service if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40. On average, a patient can expect to be on sick leave for four to six weeks after the procedure, medical website 1177.se noted.

The procedure did often lead to the patient having to resort to plastic surgery, however, to remove excess skin on the abdomen. More than two in five patients had to have follow up plastic surgery, the research found.

"What about all the loose skin?" asked one patient on her blog. As the number of procedures have increased in Sweden, so has the culture of blogging about life before and after surgery. 

"I'd rather have loose skin and a healthy weight, than have the skin filled up with a tonne of kilogrammes," the 30-year-old blogger at En gång tjock (Once fat) mused. "Yes, my skin is loose, but that's not an effect of the surgery, rather it's because of how overweight I was before the op." 

Edholm's research was revealed just days after the the Public Health Institute (Folkhälsomyndigheten) warned that the Swedish population was getting ever fatter - especially middle-aged Swedes and those nearing retirement age. In the 45-64 age bracket, obesity among women had increased eight percent and among men five percent in the past ten years. 

Health experts warned that the many health problems associated with obesity meant Sweden would soon have to foot an ever larger health bill as Swedes pile on the pounds. 

"Even if you lead quite a healthy life, you're adding half a kilogramme a year," Karolinska Institute expert Claude Marcus told the TT news agency. "That's two extra meatballs a day. If you instead eat four more meatballs every day, you're rapidly adding a kilo per year. And over a ten-year period, that's quite a lot." 

Today, 26 percent of Swedes between 16 and 29 are classified as overweight or obese. Among 30-40-year-olds, that percentage is 45. 

While the short- and long-term health benefits of patients losing weight are well-documented, Edholm noted in his research that patients were bad at taking vitamin supplements, which are recommended for life after the procedure. Only 24 percent of the patients took multivitamins every day, but 72 percent did make sure to supplement their diet with vitamin B12.

Edholm's research also noted that patients who embarked on a low calorie diet for four weeks in the run up to surgery managed to shrink the size of their liver, which can make surgery easier. 

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