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African Americans having Gastric Bypass in Record Numbers


Gastric bypass surgeries have increased dramatically in recent years, jumping more than 500 percent worldwide jumping from 16,800 operations in 1993 to 140,640 in 2004, according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

Between sixty and seventy percent of African Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

African Americans make up 9 percent of gastric bypass patients, and the average age is around thirty-nine, according to data complied by the International Bariatric Registry.

Robyn McGee, author of HUNGRY FOR MORE: A Keeping it Real Guide for Black Women on Weight and Body Image will be speaking about gastric bypass dangers and other weight-related matters Saturday, June 10, 2006 at the Congressional Black Caucus Health Empowerment Submit in Compton, Caliornia

Plastic and cosmetic surgery used to be frowned on in the African American community. “Being cut” tapped into both a mistrust of the medical profession and an aversion to altering one’s features to look “more white” (Michael Jackson predictably comes up in that discussion). But high profile celebrities, like singing legend Patti LaBelle, have made so-called surgical makeovers more acceptable among blacks. In just two years, the number of black cosmetic surgery patients has grown by almost one-third, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, jumping from 375,025 in 2002 to 487,887 in 2004.

Gastric bypass surgery is far more serious than a cut and fold, however. Desperate to be thin, African American men and women are willing to risk their lives having their stomachs cut and reconfigured.

They see surgery as a shortcut to ridding themselves of all their problems along with pounds of fat. They view weight loss surgery as a magic bullet, a symbol for taking control of their lives, a renewal of hope. They consider hair loss, additional surgeries, and eating complications after gastric bypass operations are a small price to pay to be thin.

Fortunately, most people who undergo gastric bypass will not die. Weight loss surgeons quote the mortality rate as one death out of every two hundred patients. But a study by the University of Washington cites an even scarier statistic: one death in every fifty, when taking into account all weight loss surgery patients at all hospitals that will suffer and die from various surgery-related complications such as blood clots, fluid leakage, and infections. In addition, the people who want the surgery most--those with so-called “co-morbidities,” such as diabetes and heart disease--face the greatest risk of having something go wrong.

For more about African Americans, weight and body image, pick up HUNGRY FOR MORE by Robyn McGee or logon
to or call (310) 722-5058


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