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According to the Surgeon General’s recent “call to action,” obesity has reached nationwide epidemic proportions. Obesity is defined as an excess of total body fat, a result of imbalance between caloric intake and energy expenditure. In 1999, an estimated 61 percent of U.S. adults were overweight, along with 13 percent of children and adolescents. Obesity among adults has doubled since 1980, while the number of overweight adolescents has tripled. Increases in obesity are associated with dramatic increases in conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, hypertension, joint problems and asthma. The increase in chronic health conditions caused by obesity is similar to that seen in 20 years of aging.

A measurement used to assess obesity health risks is Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing body weight in pounds (lb) by height in inches squared (in2) and multiplying that amount by 704.5. Although health risks increase at a BMI of 27, significant health problems and increased risk of death are greater as a person’s BMI increases. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30, severe obesity is associated with a BMI of 35, and morbid obesity with a BMI of 40 or higher.

Obesity can be a degenerative and debilitating disease. The National Institutes of Health reports that obesity substantially increases the risk of morbidity and mortality from:

  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes (Type 2)
  • Stroke
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Cancer
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Joint Problems

According to the American Obesity Association, obese individuals have a 50 percent to 100 percent increased risk of death compared to individuals of normal weight, with 300,000 to 587,000 deaths each year. This substantial increase in health risks has made obesity the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

Normal System

Understanding the normal digestive system is important to know as you will then better understand the changes in anatomy that will occur after surgery. The digestive system is a series of hollow organs that work together to break food down into small particles that can be absorbed.

Mouth & Teeth - Food enters the mouth, is mixed with saliva and chewed to a consistency that can be swallowed. It then travels down the esophagus and into the stomach.

Esophagus - Food pipe that connects the mouth to the stomach.

Stomach - Acts as a holding place for food and slowly empties into the small intestine (bowel). Produces gastric acid to begin the digestive process. The stomach does not absorb food.

Small Intestine (Bowel) - consists of three parts. Digestive secretions are mixed with food and the nutrients are absorbed into the blood stream.

  • Duodenum is attached to the stomach and is the shortest portion.
  • Jejunum, the second portion. The middle section is responsible for some absorption and for breaking down food into essential elements.
  • Ileum, the third portion. Absorption of nutrients and fluids occur here.

Large Intestine (Bowel) – Fluid and electrolytes are absorbed here. The leftover waste products are concentrated and then passed through the rectum as stool.

The gallbladder, liver and pancreas help aid in digestion by producing enzymes and chemicals.

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