Weight loss surgery - what are the options?

Losing weight is never easy and Britons' poor diet and exercise has led to a growing obesity problem in the UK. While a balanced diet and regular exercise is essential to maintaining a healthy weight, some find weight loss becomes increasingly difficult and can lead to serious health problems.

Weight loss surgery
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However, surgery can offer an alternative - here are a few of the options available and what is involved in the procedure.

Gastric band
This highly-effective method of weight loss limits the quantity of food you can eat. The stomach is divided into two parts with an inflatable band inserted via keyhole surgery. This creates a smaller pouch, making you feel fuller, quicker. By inflating or deflating the band, the level of restriction can be altered. It may take several adjustments to reach the correct level of restriction, depending on your goal, and each must be done in hospital. However, the recovery period is relatively short (patients can go home within one or two days and expect a full recovery in approximately two weeks) and the procedure is easily reversible.

Gastric bypass
A gastric bypass applies the same principle as the gastric band but uses a staple to divide the stomach. Those who opt for this procedure often lose around 70 per cent of their excess weight in the two years following the operation but it is a more serious op - a full recovery can take up to six weeks and the procedure is not easily reversed.

Gastric balloon
Once again, the idea with a gastric balloon is to make you feel fuller, quicker. A soft, silicon balloon is inserted into the stomach and filled with saline, partially filling the stomach, leaving you feeling satisfied more easily. It's a relatively simple procedure and most patients are able to return home on the day of the operation. After six months the balloon is removed. However, it is recommended only for those with a BMI of 30 or more and patients are usually required to combine the operation with a weight loss programme designed by doctors and dieticians.

Sleeve gastrectomy
This operation is a major procedure, which involves permanently removing a section of the stomach, reducing its size by about 75 per cent and thus limiting the amount of food that can be eaten. Again, the operation can not be reversed and therefore should not be undertaken lightly.

Liposuction is more about changing the body's contour than losing large quantities of excess weight. It is frequently used to remove fat from the hips, thighs and abdomen using a small tube (cannula) to literally suck out up to 10 lbs of fat. Swelling, bruising and scarring are common but usually fade within a month or so.

New advances in the procedure have given rise to laser liposuction, which is now offered as a "walk in, walk out" treatment. Done under local anaesthetic, this procedure uses a laser to break up the membrane of fat cells, allowing the oil inside to be broken down by the liver. Collagen production is stimulated by this procedure, leaving the skin tightened.

However, anyone opting for liposuction should be aware that without a healthy diet and regular exercise, excess fat will quickly return.