Gastric bypass surgery changed Steve Veale’s life.
Last spring he was a morbidly obese guy with a limp and terrible eating habits. Now he’s a regular-weight man who rides his bike a lot and craves fruit salad.
Veale has lost 63 pounds in four months. Because surgeons sealed off part of his stomach, he can only eat a tiny portion of the rich foods he used to consume. But what amazes him — and still puzzles scientists — is that he doesn’t want to.
“Your tastes change,” he told Metro. “It’s weird. You can eat whatever you want, but what you like has changed overnight. Gimme watermelon!”
Veale’s surgery, which was done last May, is called Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. It involves stapling off most of the stomach and leaving a small pouch, about the size of a golf ball. The new pouch is attached to the small intestine, where food is processed. Vitamins and minerals are not as well absorbed into the body after this, so people who have the surgery must be willing to drink protein shakes, swallow countless supplements and eat very healthy food.
“It is very effective. Almost everyone loses weight,” says Dr. Mehran Anvari, director of the bariatric surgical program at St. Joseph’s and professor of surgery at McMaster University in Hamilton.
About 70 per cent of people maintain more than half of their weight loss over five years, he says.
How much food and what types of food the new pouch can handle is a matter of “trial and error,” says Veale. Chinese food, for instance, comes right back up again. When he goes out for dinner with friends, he generally orders soup or an appetizer only, and even then he takes half of it home with him. “I feel great on the little I eat,” he says. “I’m not thinking of food at all.”
Veale, who is a 59-year-old travel writer, was a candidate for the surgery because at 5’10” and weighing 294 lbs, his BMI was 42.4. Plus he had a bum knee. To get OHIP funding, you must have a BMI over 40 or be obese with kidney, heart, or joint disease or diabetes.
Veale’s surgery was paid for by OHIP but done in Warren, Mich. Some Canadian provinces are ramping up their facilities to do gastric bypass surgery. “This is going to be the fastest area of surgical growth in Canada,” says Anvari. “By 2011 we hope to have infrastructure in place in Ontario and do not need to send people to the U.S.”
Quebec and Alberta also have programs.
According to Statistics Canada, almost 60 per cent of Canadian adults are overweight or obese. (It will be a worse problem in the future, as 26 per cent of Canadian children and adolescents are overweight and eight per cent are obese.)
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