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Weight-loss surgery can lead to psychological distress

People who have gastric band surgery to lose weight are at risk of low self-esteem, relationship problems and being dissatisfied with their body image, according to new research being presented at the Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference (APC) today.

Researchers from the University of the West of England and Southmead Hospital, Bristol, followed 25 patients aged from 30 to 58 years and recorded their experience 12 months after receiving a post-laparoscopic gastric banding operation. 64 per cent of the participants had Type 2 diabetes.

Health benefits versus negative psychological effects

Although the people who took part in the study reported significant health benefits such as improved blood glucose levels and lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, they also found that living with the gastric band had a strong, negative psychological impact on their daily lives.

The majority reported that having a gastric band was as hard as having to diet and that losing the opportunity to eat as a coping strategy left them struggling to cope with distressing life events.

"Losing weight not only reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes but also significantly improves management in people who have the condition," said Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy Services at Diabetes UK.

"We always advise people wanting to lose weight to try to do so by following a healthy, balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables and low in fat, sugar and salt, combined with physical activity."

"Weight-loss surgery can be a way of losing significant amounts of weight for people who are obese. However, surgery does have serious associated risks and should only be considered if sustained attempts to lose weight through diet and lifestyle changes have been unsuccessful.

"This new research also shows that there might be psychological consequences to having the procedure and patients should be made aware of these when considering the surgery."

Not the easy option

Lead researcher Dr Andrew Johnson from Southmead Hospital said "Our findings show that having a gastric band fitted should not be seen as the easy option when it comes to losing weight.

"This operation has a strong psychological impact as well as a physical one, and we found that regular psychological support is needed to help people cope with the realities of having the device fitted."

55 per cent jump in weight-loss operations

The NHS Information Centre recently released figures showing a 55 per cent increase in the number of people having weight-loss surgery, such as stomach stapling or having a gastric band fitted, from 2007/08 to 2008/09, a jump from 2,274 procedures to 4,220.

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