A Weighty Issue: FDA Loosens Lap-Band Guidelines

Are the results worth the risks? We discuss some unsettling consequences

When Nicole Richie shed over 60 pounds several years ago, rumors swirled that she had surgical help. What really happened? We may never know. The fact is, weight-loss surgery is nearly impossible to prove. What we do know: Back then, most bariatric surgeries required a BMI of 40 or above (35 with additional health complications) to justify the risk. So how could Richie, never more than a few pounds overweight, have gotten the procedure? The answer, as in many things Hollywood, is that celebrities have access to things mere mortals never dream of. 

Fast forward to today and the average-weight Jane just got one step closer to Hollywood skinny, thanks to the FDA's approval last Friday for use of the Lap-Band - a surgical procedure that places an inflatable ring around the top of the stomach to curb hunger - for patients who are not morbidly obese. The new guidelines will allow anyone with a BMI of 35 or higher (or 30 with additional health problems) to get the surgery that averages a weight loss of 50 pounds or more.  With the average American woman's BMI around 28 (27 for men), this makes nearly half the population eligible for this surgery. Aggressive marketing campaigns on billboards, television and print magazines are now trying to convince the casual dieter that the easiest way to slim down is with surgery.  But is this a good thing?

People have been beautifying themselves with elective surgery for two millenia so what's the difference between a Brazilian butt lift and a Los Angeles Lap-Band?  After all, with the rising rate of obesity shouldn't anything that helps people lose weight be celebrated?

The problems, it turns out, are manifold. Side effects of the Lap-Band range from the mostly irritating vomiting, reflux and constipation to the more severe obstructions, perforations and infections.  And of course, people have died from the surgery. In addition, there are the clinics and doctors performing the surgery. Last but not least, the surgery costs currently range from $18,000 to over $100,000, often not covered by health insurance. 

Fat hating, both in ourselves and others, has become a national sport so who can blame people desperate for a quick and easy solution?  While the Lap-Band may produce quick weight loss, in the end it still isn't easy - patients must exercise and eat right - and may not even be healthy.

Do you think Lap-Band is a good solution for people with only a few pounds to lose? Chime in below!

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