America's curiosity about weight-loss surgery has expanded with our waistlines

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- America's curiosity about weight-loss surgery has expanded with our waistlines. It’s a drastic decision patients and their doctors must weigh carefully, especially with all the options out there.

Mayo Clinic gastrointestinal surgeon Michael Sarr said in no way is weight-loss surgery a shortcut, but rather a medical solution for heading off the unhealthy ravages of obesity.

“High blood pressure, degenerative joint disease, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea and a bunch of other things,” Sarr said.

Among the innovative surgical approaches is the gastric band.

“Imagine it as a doughnut hat's placed around the top of the stomach,” Sarr continued. "So it decreases the size of the connection between the swallowing tube and the stomach, and it limits the rate at which stuff passes through."

Sarr said one problem with the band is that it's too easy to cheat on a diet. This perhaps means loading up on high-calorie ice cream or sweets, which will slip through the band.

There are some other weight-loss procedures people can choose.

“The second, which is probably the most common, is called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass,” Sarr said. “So it works in two ways.  It works by decreasing the amount that you can eat and it works such that you decrease the part of the small intestine where most of the absorption occurs.”

The third one is called the Sleeve Gastrectomy. It reduces the stomach to about the size of a man's thumb

“That's kind of the hot operation now because there's no bypass,” Sarr said. “Everything that you eat goes through the normal channel. It's just that you can't eat very much."

Only about 5 percent of obese people are successful at dropping half of their body weight through diet and exercise. This is compared to a 60 percent success rate for gastric bypass patients.

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