Medication or surgery for obesity care?

May 31, 2023

Medication or surgery for obesity care?

Media outlets and channels have recently spotlighted prescription medications' perceived value in supporting weight loss. UW Medicine specialists say your primary care doctor is the best initial source for advice about these medications, which are approved for this use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

“Although they're amazing and there's a huge percentage of weight loss, they're not necessarily a cure,” said Dr. Laura Montour, co-director of the Center for Weight Loss and Metabolic Surgery. “Obesity in general requires lifelong treatment to sustain the weight.” 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 1 in 3 American adults are overweight, while another 2 in 5 have obesity (defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher for adults).  

“Many people think that weight-management is cosmetic, but obesity is a complex metabolic disease, and we're treating health and the comorbidities associated with obesity,” said Montour, a clinical assistant professor in family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “The treatment is individualized and based on what the patient's health needs are."

Surgery, on the other hand, "does require someone to understand that there are going to be anatomical changes to the stomach, in the intestine, that allow for someone to feel full, to change some of the hormones that really are important in obesity treatment," said Dr. Judy Chen, a bariatric surgeon and UW assistant professor of surgery. 

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on obesity care at UW Medicine. 

Related: Overweight & Obesity resource from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 

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