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Weight-loss surgery trending as India deals with rising obesity

In a country where one-in-six people are undernourished, the stomach-shrinking or bariatric surgery market is booming in India.

ENGLISH | CERITA

Sabtu, 29 Jun 2013 15:09 WIB

Weight-loss surgery trending as India deals with rising obesity

India obesity, weight-loss surgery in India, bariatric surgery

In a country where one-in-six people are undernourished, the stomach-shrinking or bariatric surgery market is booming in India.

The billion-dollar global market is set to expand even further with the country grappling with rising obesity.

Aditya Hansraj Patil, who is 26 years, has just come out of a bariatric or weight loss surgery and is looking forward to a new lease of life.

Aditya underwent surgery and is hoping that his weight will melt away along with his numerous health problems in good time.

“I am very heavy and fatty and whenever I go around, people say hey this fat person is coming,” recalls Aditya.

“I feel bad and sometimes I feel good also. But it is ok. I had to do this for myself. I do not want to have sugar and a heart attack. It has changed my whole body, my mental level, my confidence… everything.”

India has emerged as a favourable destination chosen for weight loss surgery.

The fashionable trend seems to have captured the imagination of urban India where middle-class citizens are increasingly opting for this procedure.

Obesity management surgeries have been on the rise for the last decade and Dr Atul Peters has been at the forefront of that movement.

“When I started my practice eight years back, the majority of patients that were coming to me were international patients. From some part of the Middle East and the US, and the US was forming a large part of my practice because the surgeries we were doing here, similar surgeries were costing one third or less here. Now over a period of time, I would say that 10 to 15 per cent of my practice was India based or Delhi based. But over a period of six years, we have seen a dramatic shift, I would say around 90 per cent is an Indian patient practice and 10 per cent is a foreign practice.”

Morbid obesity in India is growing rapidly which has further fuelled the obesity surgery infrastructure in India.

India's strong economy has given rise to modern comforts and the result is many people, especially in big cities, are becoming fatter due to sedentary lifestyles.

Dr Umesh Deshmukh, an anesthesiologist in a Delhi hospital says the problem is only going to increase.

“In India it is more a problem of affluence rather than a problem of poverty where as in the West it is a problem of poverty. Since India is getting to be an affluent nation, I see this becoming a bigger epidemic than anywhere else. Because affluence will grow and poverty will diminish. Since in India it is because of affluence, I see it growing. It is very unfortunate but I think I will get more work.”

Laparoscopic sleeve and laparascopic bypass surgeries are the most frequently used procedures, whereby a portion of the stomach is removed or is entirely bypassed, shortening the space for food to be held and digested.

This in turn reduces intake, leading to an immediate loss in weight for the patient.

Medical opinion estimates indicate that there will be 10,000 such surgeries this year with as many as 2 million Indians as potential candidates.

Even Dr Yogesh Gautam, a bariatric surgeon says this is a major problem.

“Obesity will increase exponentially and the data says that by 2025, the percentage of obese people will be 70 per cent more than the present number. It will be increasing by 15 per cent every year.”

Another study from Mumbai's prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences found that 70 per cent of those who went under the knife or are slated to do so to lose weight are homemakers and the rest are working women.

Interestingly, over 87 per cent of bariatric surgeries were conducted on less than 52-year olds, confirming the trend that younger people are largely opting for weight loss surgeries.

Dr Peters again.

“Classically, I would see my mix of patients, 50 to 60 per cent would be from business class families, 10 to 15 per cent would be the younger generation… wherein younger girls who have to be married and younger boys who are already diabetic and learning about diabetic surgery… some part will be the real affluent class where we see high-class business guys or high-profile corporate people… they are getting into obesity.”

In India, where millions of people suffer from malnutrition, a recent study listed an alarming 70 per cent of India's urban population in the overweight or obese category.

Dr Gautam is worried.

“Obesity is an epidemic and no epidemic can be treated by a scalpel. There has to be some medical innovation which has to be on its way.”

Recently, the World Health Organization predicted that the global population in 2015 will comprise approximately 2.3 billion overweight adults and more than 700 million obese adults.

In India, however, weight loss surgery has become one of the most sought-after procedures.

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