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Lap-bands for weight loss--minus the lap-bands

(Don’t) Strike up the band

It just got much easier to get a lap-band.

Well, it was never as difficult as trying to buy a Wii on Christmas Eve. So let me put that another way: It just got much easier to get health insurance coverage for the considerable expense of a lap-band. This is the procedure that places a ring around the opening to the stomach, restricting food intake.

If FDA officials follow the recent recommendation of an expert panel–and they probably will–many millions of people who just barely qualify as obese will be eligible for lap-band insurance coverage. And you can bet that millions will take the plunge.

According to lap-band advocates, this treatment is a “cure” for obesity, as well as other conditions linked with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes.

In fact, lap-banding is seen as such a promising solution that some borderline-obese patients have actually gained additional weight on purpose in order to qualify for lap-band coverage.

That may seem extreme, but these are people who say they’ve tried everything–diets, exercising, drugs–and nothing has worked. So they’re ready for surgery.

But when they sign on for this procedure, they may be dismayed to find that it’s not a stroke of magic. Anyone who hopes to come out of lap-band surgery automatically shedding pounds is in for a shock: Their days of commitment to dieting and exercise have just begun.

Excellent advice

On the website for the University of California San Diego Center for the Treatment of Obesity, lap-band guidelines include a bariatric surgery diet that’s described as “critical to your recovery and weight loss success.”

The guidelines include:

  • Avoid “high calorie foods/drinks”
  • “Eat only three small meals a day”
  • “Do not eat between meals”
  • “Eat only good quality foods–no junk!”
  • “Drink only low-calorie liquids”
  • “Exercise at least 30 minutes a day”

If patients closely followed those guidelines for a year before lap-band surgery, most of them wouldn’t need a lap-band at all!

And that would be ideal, because a significant number of lap-band patients end up having the band removed due to pain, vomiting, or ineffective weight loss.

We’ll soon find out if the FDA approves the new lower-threshold requirements for lap-bands. If they do, the marketing departments at gastric bypass surgery companies are already geared up for the next step: lap-bands for type 2 diabetics, even if they’re not obese or overweight.

Sound farfetched? That idea is actually being considered. But while waiting for that day, anyone who’s diabetic, obese, or overweight should put the lap-band out of their mind and just follow the bariatric surgery diet. By the time the new requirements get an FDA approval, they
probably won’t need the band.

“Obesity Surgery May Become Option for Many More” Andrew Pollack, New York Times, 12/1/10,
“FDA Backs Wider Use Of Allergan’s Lap-Band To Treat Obesity” Jennifer Corbett Dooren, Fox Business, 12/3/10,

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