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What is Bariatric Medicine?

By Adam Hill
Updated Feb 26, 2024
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Bariatric medicine, or bariatrics, refers to the branch of medicine which is concerned with the treatment of obesity, as well as its causes and preventive techniques. Weight loss strategies that include a modified diet, exercise, and behavioral therapy, are part of the field of bariatric medicine. This aspect of medical science has expanded in recent years due to the increasing prevalence of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles that lead to it. Obesity or a high body mass index (BMI) are considered to be major risk factors for preventable conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, gout, sleep apnea, joint problems, and even some types of cancer.

One of the main focuses of bariatric medicine is the restoration or implementation of healthy lifestyle choices, to improve a patient's overall health and reduce the risk that significant health problems will develop down the road. Proper dietary counseling is an essential part of a holistic approach to weight loss. It is important that a new diet and meal program strike a balance between being healthy, and still holding some appeal for the patient. Without this second element, it will likely be difficult to continue the program in the long term.

An exercise regimen must be coupled with dietary counseling to take advantage of all potential benefits. Exercise tends to increase the strength and efficiency of the heart, as well as increasing a person's resting metabolism, which translates into faster weight loss. Retaining and increasing lean muscle mass also leads to a higher metabolism.

Bariatric medicine acknowledges the fact that the health of the body is not only due to physiological factors, but also psychological ones. It may be that emotional issues are at the root of a person's unhealthy weight, and that any treatment program for that person must include the correct psychological tools for success. A positive attitude and a goal-driven mindset are invaluable in pursuing a long-term goal like weight loss, and any negative emotional conditions must be addressed if that person is to become entirely healthy.

Part of bariatric medicine includes the use of weight loss surgery for those whose health is in immediate jeopardy, or who otherwise cannot be benefited by traditional weight loss programs. Bariatric surgery is generally considered a last resort, and often consists of surgically reducing the size of the stomach, or reducing the area of the digestive tract that is able to take in nutrients. These surgeries are not in themselves a cure for obesity, though they usually bring the patient's weight down drastically in the months and years that follow the procedure. Complications are common, and the patient will likely need to take multivitamin supplements on a permanent basis to compensate for the loss of part of the body's ability to absorb nutrients.

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Discussion Comments
By anon91345 — On Jun 21, 2010

I am a 65 year old retired male, and recently I consulted a bariatric medicine specialist to help control my type 2 diabetes and blood pressure. With her help, and a strict diet, my glucose levels have been lower than they have been in almost 20 years, and also I have stopped taking blood pressure medication. My pressure has remained stable for over a month now, and I am amazed.

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