Bariatrics on the Beeb 

12/06/2013 00:00 

The BBC was invited to University College Hospital last week to watch a gastric bypass and learn more about how we help people lose weight and overcome the associated consequences of what is fast becoming the world’s biggest health problem: obesity.

Surgeon Andrew Jenkinson, second from right, with his theatre team performing a gastric bypass last Thursday. 

Newshour is the BBC World Service's flagship international news and current affairs programme with a global weekly reach of 43 million (including 1.72 million people in the UK and 9.9 million in the US).

Among the guests interviewed on the programme were University College Hospital consultant surgeon Andrew Jenkinson and his patient Mark Kelley, 39. Presenter James Menendez also spoke to best-selling author Lionel Shriver whose latest book was inspired by her brother’s death at 55 in 2009 of respiratory failure – an obesity-related illness.

“Have we got enough to eat?” used to be the question and in some parts of the world it is still the case, said Mr Menendez in introducing the topic, “but globally the challenge now is the reverse: how do we stop people eating too much?”

Tim Armstrong of the World Health Organization said obesity had doubled globally since 1980 and was now being considered another form of malnutrition. 12 per cent of the world’s people were clinically obese and 35 per cent overweight. This was because people were more exposed to products which were high in fat and sugar and were marketed heavily. People were also following a less active and more sedentary lifestyle.

The report described University College Hospital as one of the leading centres in gastrointestinal surgery for weight loss, as he watched the procedure described by Mr Jenkinson as “a change to the patient’s gastrointestinal system to make it easier to lose weight”. In addition, the surgery would affect the patient’s metabolism so that “his diabetes and blood pressure and cholesterol level will improve”.

“The stomach is stapled to make it smaller, roughly the size of an egg, to trick the brain into feeling fuller much quicker,” Mr Jenkinson said, adding that the hospital does about 300 such operations a year. While it is major surgery, it is increasingly being recognised by patients, GPs and the media as good, effective and safe surgery, he said.

Asked whether he thought it was the patient's fault that he had developed obesity, Mr Jenkinson disagreed, “The problem is we are not suited to the environment we currently live in… we have good protective measures against losing weight but, from the evolutionary standpoint, not against gaining weight. If he had been born 100 years ago he probably would not have developed obesity. Obesity is probably going to overtake smoking as the major lifestyle drain on NHS resources,” Mr Jenkinson warned.

Also on the programme were the Australian doctor and author Karen Hitchcock, whose essay for The Monthly entitled Fat City: What can stop obesity became a talking point online after it was published and the American blogger Jess Baker who writes at The Militant Baker.

Click here to view the full programme.


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