(NaturalNews) The number of weight-loss (bariatric) surgeries in the United Kingdom has increased 800 percent over the course of five years, according to the National Health Service (NHS) Information Center.
In 2003-04, the NHS paid for 480 surgical weight-loss procedures, such as gastric bands and stomach stapling. By 2008-09, the number of procedures had soared to 4,246. Of these operations, 2,210 were gastric bypasses; 1,378 were gastric bands; 504 were stomach stapling; and 124 involved inserting a bubble to take up space in the stomach. The statistics do not show how many patients may have undergone more than one procedure.
"These figures just show how bad things have got with the obesity epidemic," said Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum.
The increase in surgeries was matched by an increased in the proportion of English residents classified as obese from 15.7 percent in 1994 to 24.5 percent in 2008. The United Kingdom is regularly ranked as one of the 10 most obese nations in the world.
To receive weight loss surgery in the United Kingdom, patients must have tried and failed to lose weight through non-surgical methods first. They must also have a body mass index of 40 or higher (35 or higher if they have a related health condition, such as diabetes).
But these guidelines, intended to limit the number of surgeries performed, may have backfired, Fry said, causing some patients to deliberately gain weight in order to qualify.
"There is a premise that if you feed yourself up, you get to the bar – 35 BMI with comorbidities or 40 without – then the operation would be yours," Fry said. "A lot of doctors are also starting to skirt around the rules and not insist on months of lifestyle change and pharmaceutical treatment – instead they are going straight for surgery."
"Better solutions to obesity are surely available," write Gerald E. Markle and Frances B. McCrea in their book What If Medicine Disappeared?
"Nor is gastric bypass without risks. About 8 percent of all procedures resulted in complications requiring further surgery. One-year mortality among Medicare beneficiaries has been reported as high as 4.6 percent."