Obese black Americans half as likely as whites to have bariatric surgery

White Americans who are obese are twice as likely as black Americans to have surgery to tackle the problem, a study has found.

Bariatric is now recognised as a successful treatment for preventing serious complications of obesity such as diabetes and . The new study is one of the first to look at whether people who need surgery most are actually receiving it.

Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Imperial College London studied rates of bariatric surgery in the US from 1999 to 2010.

Twenty-two per cent of black women and 11 per cent of black men were eligible for bariatric surgery, compared with 12 per cent of white women and eight per cent of white men. But twice as many eligible white women and men than black women and men received bariatric surgery.

Differences in insurance coverage appeared to be partly responsible for the discrepancy: about 70 per cent of eligible white men and women had private health insurance compared with 50 per cent of black men and women.

"Bariatric surgery has been shown to be an effective treatment for moderate to clinically severe obesity and more importantly is has the benefit of successfully resolving or improving the important chronic conditions of diabetes and hypertension in the majority of cases," said Arch G. Mainous III, from the Medical University of South Carolina.

"Bariatric surgery can improve quality of life, decrease the risk of , and lower disability and health-care costs. Consequently, this health disparity in treatment has implications for health care costs and morbidity due to common diseases like diabetes and hypertension, conditions that are highly prevalent in the African American community."

Dr Sonia Saxena, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said: "Our earlier research found that 45 per cent of who regularly visited the doctor's office did not recall being told by their doctor that they had a weight problem. Those who did were six to eight times more likely to recognise the problem and twice as likely to do something about it.

"Our new findings suggest that differences in insurance coverage are part of the reason why black Americans are less likely to have bariatric surgery, but it may not be the whole story. We need more research to look at whether cultural differences, perhaps a greater acceptance of obesity, lack of awareness of the risks or mistrust of doctors, might also be contributing." Around half of black men and women in the US are obese, compared with one third of white adults. The study found that around six out of every thousand eligible white women had bariatric surgery compared with three out of every thousand eligible black women. Two out of every thousand eligible had bariatric surgery compared with one out of every thousand eligible .

The findings are published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Race might play role in success of weight-loss surgery

Jun 20, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Black women without diabetes lost about 10 percent less weight than white women after having a weight-loss procedure called gastric bypass surgery, but having diabetes helped increase their ...

Bariatric surgery substantially reduces the risk of diabetes

Sep 18, 2012

Bariatric surgery reduces the long-term risk of developing diabetes by over 80 % among people with obesity. The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has published the results of a study conducted at Sahlgrenska Academy, Univ ...

Recommended for you

Targeting the brain to treat obesity

Jul 23, 2014

Unlocking the secrets to better treating the pernicious disorders of obesity and dementia reside in the brain, according to a paper from American University's Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. In the paper, researchers ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

radfatty
not rated yet Aug 06, 2013
There are many reasons why weight loss surgery is not the "answer" that people make it out to be, some of which are:
• Bariatric surgery may appear to cure diabetes based on measurements such as fasting plasma glucose and hemoglobin A1c, but postprandial glucose may tell a different story
• Iron absorption is markedly reduced after RYGBP with no further modifications, at least until 18 mo after surgery
• A 2006 study concluded that WLS complications are common. By examining insurance claims for 2,522 surgeries, researchers with the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that 40% of patients had complications in 6 mths after surgery, about double the rate in previous studies
• In contrast to current bariatric studies, which report a 20% in-hospital complication rate, we find a significantly higher complication rate over the 6 months after surgery, resulting in costly readmissions and emergency room visits
There is an evidence-based alternative, Health At Every Size.