Definition of bariatrics

Bariatrics is an English word that describes a field of medicine that deals with weight loss, weight control, and obesity treatment.

Etymology of bariatrics

Bariatrics is combined using three different root origins: bari- from Greek (also, baros), meaning heavy weight, burden, or load. This term dates back to the writings of Herodotes, Aeschylos, and Sophocles. The second root, iatr, comes from Greek iatrikos/iatros which describe physicians and treatment, and the suffix, ic, means pertaining to. One important thing to note here is that, while this word certainly has a predominantly Greek origin, the term beri/bari appeared in ancient Hebrew text to refer to something as “fat” or “fleshy.” This dual origin has confused researchers, as Greek comes primarily from Indo-European sources, while also existing in a Semitic language. That’s a strange occurrence in the history of etymology, because the two did not mix in those times.

Modern Usage

Today, bariatrics is used to refer to a specific medical branch commonly associated with weight loss. The word entered into the English language around 1965. The medical field includes exercise, dieting, therapy, drug treatment, and surgery. The most common surgery is gastric bypass surgery, which involves making the stomach much smaller. This is done both through reducing the amount of ghrelin produced as well as using a Gastric band. Ghrelin is the hormone that causes the body to experience hunger, so by reducing the production of this hormone, the person feels hungry less often. The Gastric band is another method of weight loss treatment as it is placed around the stomach during surgery and then constricts until a smaller stomach pouch forms. The band is adjusted by injecting or withdrawing saline solution from the band. The saline should stay at a specific level to allow food to pass through the stomach, although not easily.

Connection to Obesity

Obesity is an ever growing problem in today’s world. People with a BMI (body mass index) that is too low or too high for their height/gender/age face medical risks of increased proportions. These risks include, but are not limited to, sleep apnea, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, different types of cancer, and more. Although many people who are obese have tried diets and/or behavior therapy, most find that although these may work in the short term, the long term effects are neutral or negative, as they either return to or surpass their original weight. Bariatric surgery can help maintain long term weight loss with much better results.

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