Dr. Julie Ellner
Obesity is largely a genetic, metabolic disease, with devastating effects on adults and children, according to Dr. Julie Ellner, one of the country's leading weight loss surgeons who operates at Scripps Memorial and Alvarado Hospitals in San Diego and is the medical director of Alvarado's world-renowned Surgical Weight Loss program.
Morbidly obese persons are almost 10 times more likely to die within five years if they don't undergo gastric bypass surgery than if they do, Ellner
Morbid obesity leads to a 20-year reduction in life span, a 400 percent increase in the risk of diabetes, 75 percent increase in stroke and 70 percent increase in coronary artery disease.
Obesity also is linked to many types of cancer, impaired immunity, sexual dysfunction and infertility.
Major depression among morbidly obese persons has reached 89 percent.
not treating a patient's size or their weight - she's
treating the person's diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, infertility, joint and back pain, and most importantly, increasing life expectancy and quality of life for people with a disease that will otherwise kill them.
"Gastric bypass and banding surgery aren't about making people thin," said Ellner
, an active surfer who has obesity in her
We will soon see the paths cross and obesity will be the leading cause of preventable death," Ellner
Surgery for obesity is widely popular and has become quite commonplace, with 220,000 weight loss surgeries performed in 2008, Ellner
said it is the most effective tool available to treat diabetes in morbidly obese patients and also relieves high blood pressure, sleep apnea, cardiac dysfunction, infertility and sexual dysfunction.
It is the only treatment for obesity that has proven effective in the long term, according to the National Consensus Panel.
The risk of surgery has dramatically declined over the years and is now about the same risk as having your gallbladder removed, according to Ellner
"However, surgery is only a tool, and patients need to recognize that it doesn't do the work for them.
The most important decision that a patient makes is who performs their surgery.
They need to do their research and be informed consumers.
They need to ensure that they go to a surgeon who is going to personally teach them how to safely and successfully use their surgery.
Without close guidance from their surgeon, they are likely to unintentionally misuse and damage their tool and regain weight."
What really alarms Ellner
is the rise in childhood obesity and the growing need for younger children to have gastric bypass or gastric banding surgery.
"The reality is that for children who are 10-to-11 years old who have the obesity gene right now, we don't have a way of preventing them from becoming obese," she
"Eventually they will likely need surgery, but at least they might not be a as sick with diabetes and hypertension if they start eating the right, healthy foods and exercising now.
But what we are facing now is a group of children who are already diabetic and some of them are so obese that they are not going to live to be 22 years-old.
So, doctors have to operate on these children earlier and earlier because of medical concerns, but they would make better use of the surgery if we were able to wait until they're 18 or 20 years old."
Although obesity is, in many cases, genetic, there are a growing number of people - kids and adults- who are gaining significant weight due to bad habits, Ellner
said that about 80 percent of a person's tendency to be obese is genetic and about 20 percent of it is behavioral or environmental.
That 20 percent, she
said, will continue to swell.
"Our diets and lifestyles have significantly changed in the last 20 years," Ellner
"You have double income households working two jobs, and it's not like the '50s or '60s where mom stayed at home
and put healthy meals on the table with fresh organic vegetables from the garden," said Ellner
, who grew up in tiny town called Funk, Neb. "Today, mom is working just as late as dad is.
Kids also have more homework these days and they are more stressed and have less time to sit down and eat a healthy meal.
Meanwhile, mom is grabbing 'Pick up Sticks' or other fast or processed food just to get something on the table.
People aren't eating as healthy when they're at home
suggests a high-protein, low-sugar diet for both children and adults.
"Lean protein should occupy at least 50 percent of the volume of food you eat," she