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Millions of individuals in the United States and around the world are
overweight or obese (severely overweight). When weight
increases to an extreme level, it is called morbid obesity. Obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure,
some types of cancer, and other medical problems. Bariatrics is the field of medicine that specializes in treating obesity. Bariatric surgery is the term for operations to help promote
weight loss. Bariatric surgical procedures are only considered for people
with severe obesity and not for individuals with a mild weight problem. The
October 19, 2005, issue of JAMA includes several articles about bariatric
surgical procedures for the treatment of obesity.
The body mass index (BMI) is a standard way to define overweight, obesity, and morbid obesity.
The BMI is calculated based on a person's height and weight—weight in
kilograms (2.2 pounds per kilogram) divided by the square of height in meters
(39.37 inches per meter). A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight; 30
or more, obese; and 40 or more, morbidly obese. Bariatric surgery may be offered
to patients with severe obesity when medical treatments, including lifestyle
changes of healthful eating and regular exercise, have not been effective.
Considerations for bariatric surgery
Individuals considering bariatric surgery must discuss risks and possible
benefits with their doctor. Bariatric surgery has associated risks and long-term
consequences and should be considered only one part of an approach to treating
obesity. Most bariatric surgeons think that the operations work best when
they help promote lifelong behavioral and dietary changes. Long-term follow-up
with doctors experienced in the care of patients having these procedures,
as well as lifelong vitamin supplementation, is essential to avoid life-threatening
For more information
American Society for Bariatric Surgery 352/331-4900 http://www.asbs.org
American Society of Bariatric Physicians 303/770-2526 http://www.asbp.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI Web Calculatorhttp://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/calc-bmi.htm
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A previous Patient Page on bariatric surgery was published in the
December 11, 2002, issue; and one on obesity was published in the April 9,
Sources: American Society of Bariatric Physicians; American Society
for Bariatric Surgery; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases; American Obesity Organization; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
Torpy JM, Burke A, Glass RM. Bariatric Surgery. JAMA. 2005;294(15):1986. doi:10.1001/jama.294.15.1986
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