Last week there was a story in the news that Canada’s “demand” for Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery has increased from 1,600 surgeries in 2006/07 to 6,000 surgeries in 2012/2013. The cost of the 6,000 surgeries was $48 million dollars. In addition to the surgery costs are the annual costs to treat obesity-related conditions such diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer, a price that currently sits between $4.6 and $7.1 billion dollars per year. According to the article, a recent study predicts that roughly 21 percent of Canadians will be obese by 2019 – a mere 5 years from now.
The article mentions that patients living in Ontario can have the surgery in as little as six months whereas patients on the East Coast can expect a wait time between 5 to 10 years. The call is to allow for better access to the surgeries across the provinces.
Fair enough. But its articles like these that make me despair for our future, not to mention our incredibly poor health as a collective nation. It also reminds me that doctors are not nutritionists and they are trained to fix problems, not necessarily prevent them. Their approach to health and survival is quite different by the time you find yourself sitting in their office or laying on the operating table.
What especially worries and bothers me is that as these surgeries become more commonplace, they become confused with the actual solution: If I get so sick and obese and unhealthy, there is a surgery I can have or pills I can take that will save me. I doubt people think of it in quite those terms (yet) but it is now enough a part of our psyche that by the time invasive surgery is proposed, it is not as shocking or alarming as it really should be.
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy and one of my vegan heroes, is an author and advocate for the vegan diet. He is also a fourth generation ex-cattle rancher and dairy farmer so…the man knows a few things about the shit that’s going into our food on a regular basis. Howard Lyman went vegan at 50 years old and his cholesterol dropped from 300 to 130 and he lost over 125 Ilbs, just from cutting out meat and dairy and changing to a diet full of wholes grains, beans, fruits and vegetables. Doctors such as T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyn have both written books presenting scientific evidence that we can actually reverse and prevent a lot of the current health problems plaguing North America – no surgery required.
Side effects after such surgeries like bariatric/gastric bypass can be ulcers, bowel obstructions, gallstones, excessive scar tissue and of course, death. Some patients also gain back the weight years later. Even if the patient survives and experiences a new lease on life – many certainly do – their eating habits and relationship with food haven’t necessarily changed. In fact, if their diets stay the same post-surgery, they will still be at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. And the surgery doesn’t lengthen their life – it just improves their current life span. Meanwhile, it has been proven that people with a vegetarian or vegan diet live longer and are healthier.
What I find funny (but not really) is that if you suggested going vegan to a lot of people, not just people who are obese, you’d probably get a face and something along the lines of a sentence beginning with “Oh, I could never live without….” You would likely get more resistance from someone when you suggest they cut out meat and dairy from their daily life than you would by mentioning a surgery that requires cutting their stomachs open, stapling it to a smaller size and reattaching it to their intestines.