More operations should be carried out to tackle the problem of obesity in the UK, surgeons have warned.
The UK is reportedly lagging behind the rest of Europe when it comes to stomach-shrinking operations to help obese patients with weight loss.
France carries out 37,000 obesity operations a year, compared with just 5,000 in the UK, the Guardian reported, while Belgium and Sweden – which are far smaller – perform 12,000 and 7,000 respectively.
The figures emerged as surgeons warned that more operations would help reduce the widespread issues caused by the obesity crisis, which they argue is a disease and not a lifestyle choice.
Professor Francesco Rubino, chair of metabolic and bariatric surgery at King’s College London, said there while discrimination against many diseases has been eradicated, it still exists when it comes to weight.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, he said: “We are not talking about being overweight across the board, we are talking about clinically severe obesity which represents a real disease.”
Prof Rubino said there was a difference between people being told they could lose a few pounds by eating less and exercising more and those who are clinically severely obese.
“It’s like telling somebody who is a little bit depressed from sad news to be happy – you can do that. But you cannot even think to talk somebody out of clinical depression by just cheering them up.”
Prof Rubino is among several experts arguing that bariatric surgery is a safe and cost-effective treatment for obesity.
The surgeons, speaking at the world congress of the International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders, said they were operating on patients who had become sicker because they were having to wait so long for the operation.
According to the Guardian, Marco Adamo a consultant surgeon at University College hospital and the chair of the National Bariatric Surgery Register, which records operations, said: “The UK data is overwhelming – surgery makes a difference to people’s health and we want commissioners to acknowledge this and act accordingly.
“Severe and complex obesity is a serious, lifelong condition associated with many major medical conditions, the cost of which threatens to bankrupt the NHS.”