More than one billion people worldwide are overweight; researchers blame increased calorie consumption and reduced physical activity. Some potential negative health effects of overweight and obesity are well known, such as high blood pressure and type II diabetes. Others, such as cognitive decline, are becoming better understood -- a recent issue of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences discusses the link between obesity and dementia. According to research by Deborah Gustafson of SUNY Downstate and the University of Gothenburg, overweight and obese individuals have a risk for Alzheimer's disease and dementia that is 150% to 300% of the risk of normal-weight individuals.
Given the poor health outcomes of obesity, it is not surprising that many people turn to surgical options to reduce their weight. Bariatric surgery is a broad term that includes three main types of surgery: gastric banding to reduce stomach size; removal of a portion of the stomach, by means of sleeve gastrectomy or biliopancreatic diversion; and gastric bypass, which involves dividing the stomach into two separate portions and then reconnecting the small intestine to the stomach. The most common type of bariatric surgery in America (making up 80% of all bariatric surgeries in 2007) is gastric bypass surgery, and the most popular type is a procedure called "roux-en-Y."
Although the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that only 0.5% of bariatric patients died within six months of surgery (according to 2009 data), these procedures are not without risks. Here are four things you may not know about bariatric surgery.