The Severity of Morbid Obesity in Our Society

The disease of severe obesity is consuming our society.  It is also a topic about which most have an opinion, yet few really understand. The truth about this problem is commonly distorted by misconception and bias, and generally cloaked in sensationalism. Unfortunately, most perceive those with morbid obesity as unmotivated, gluttonous, and unworthy, certainly deserved of their fate. The reality is that this is a serious problem that demands serious treatment. The following facts speak for themselves:


  • The prevalence of clinically severe, or morbid , obesity has quadrupled in the past 25 years
  • It increases the risk of diabetes by 400%, cardiovascular disease by 300%, and hypertension by 200%. 
  • It is said to account for 20% of all cancer deaths. Further, stage for stage cancer death is 50 – 60% higher for those with severe obesity.
  • Morbid Obesity is now the second leading cause of preventable death in the US, accounting for over 300,000 lives lost per year.
  • Because of the obesity epidemic, the US now ranks last among developed nations in life expectancy and infant mortality. The current generation is actually the first one in 100 years to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.
  • Genetic propensity (not gluttony) is said to account for 70% of ones tendency to become obese.
  • The majority of Americans (not just the morbidly obese) get little or no exercise, and only 12% exercise regularly.
  • Americans collectively eat over 6x the amount of meat, and 4x the amount of  recommended sugar daily. Processed and refined foods now account for 70% of the American diet. A 1999 study revealed the top five foods consumed in America to be soft drinks, pastries, hamburgers, pizza, and potato chips. Fruits and vegetables comprised only 10%. This is true of all Americans, not just those with morbid obesity.
  • Diets, exercise, and medication are ineffective in treating morbid obesity – multiple studies have come to the same conclusion: it produces on average 5-10% weight loss, which plateaus and is regained in 95-100% of people.
  • The NIH Consensus in 1991 concluded that treatment of morbid obesity is surgical, describing weight loss surgery as “the most reliable and only choice for long term maintenance of excess weight.”
  • In general, Gastric Bypass results in successful weight loss in 90% of individuals, with an average of 70% excess weight loss.  Long term success is seen in 80%.
  • Ninety percent of medical problems associated with obesity are improved or resolved after Gastric Bypass surgery, and collective cancer risk is reduced by 50%.
  • The risk of death associated with weight loss surgery is equal to gallbladder surgery and knee replacement. It is actually 3-5x safer than cardiac stenting, and 10x safer than colon or cardiac surgery, neither of which demonstrate near the benefits. 
  • The mortality rates at 5 years after weight loss surgery are 40-90% less than comparable subjects who did not undergo surgical weight loss.


The medical literature is replete with studies confirming the above.  Regardless of one’s personal bias or preconceived ideas, the facts are clear: Morbid Obesity is a serious problem, and needs to be treated as such. Most who suffer form this are living a lifestyle no different than the majority of Americans, but have a genetic propensity that leads to obesity. Unfortunately, even most medical professionals join the general public in viewing those with morbid obesity as second-class patients, undeserved of our best effort. The reality is that there is no treatment that affects long term weight loss except weight loss surgery. Yes, some will relapse and some wont be compliant. But is this also true of the many of our patients?  We would never withhold chemotherapy from the smoking lung cancer patient. Neither would we deny Insulin from the diabetic who continues to follow unhealthy diet. It would be unheard of to deny the alcoholic treatment for his cirrhosis.  So why is it that so many don’t receive counseling regarding the benefits of surgical treatment for their morbid obesity? Unfortunately, many of our patients, in fact, come to us on their own accord, without the support of their primary physician. 


Attempts at medical weight loss are essentially futile; conversely weight loss surgery affords success in the vast majority of those who pursue this path. The literature is replete with evidence if that regard. We at Central Ohio Bariatrics have committed ourselves to helping those who suffer morbid obesity. Our multidisciplinary program focuses on surgical, nutritional, physical, psychological and social support with the singular goal of helping our patients break the downward spiral of this devastating disease.