A RECENT BBC report has revealed that since 2019, seven Britons have died following surgical weight loss procedures in Turkey.

In the same time, a total of 22 UK citizens have lost their lives after routine operations in the country.

Every week, a seriously ill person arrives back from Turkey at Newcastle Airport, needing immediate hospital treatment following what should have been a straightforward operation.

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Undercover journalists have spoken to clinics where weight loss operations have been offered to individuals with a normal or slightly high Body Mass Index (BMI), or the advice has been to gain weight to become eligible for such a procedure.

Yet despite this, Turkey remains one of the top destinations for medical tourism.

Prices quoted for operations are often a third or even a quarter of that in private clinics in the UK. A consultation can be performed over WhatsApp without the surgeon ever examining the patient, and waiting lists are virtually none existent.

On top of this, a few highly polished social media posts convince the weary and vulnerable that you really can have the perfect body at a fraction of the price elsewhere.

However, it is easy to understand the lure. Obesity is a disease which affects the sufferer both physically and mentally.

At the current time, in the UK NHS waiting lists run into years and the person will need to be seen in a Specialist Weight Management Clinic (SWS) for full physical and psychological evaluation to see if they meet the criteria and if they will be able to maintain the weight loss after any treatment.

Currently, weight loss procedures, also referred to as bariatric surgery, are offered to most with a BMI of 50 or over without trying other methods of weight loss.

It may be offered to those with a BMI of 40 and above who have attempted diet and exercise, and to those with a BMI between 35-40 who also have another condition linked to obesity, such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure.

For those with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes with another risk factor for example being South Asian, it may be offered at BMIs below 35.

They are performed by Upper Gastrointestinal surgeons, who have further training in weight loss surgery.

Procedures can be divided into temporary or permanent. Temporary ones include a balloon either inserted into the stomach with an endoscope, or which the patient swallows.

The balloon reduces the volume of the stomach and the amount you can eat, and remains for several months before either being removed by an endoscope or deflating itself and passing out of your digestive system.

Permanent operations are mostly done through keyhole (laparoscopy). They can be split into procedures which reduce the volume of the stomach or in which a portion of the small intestine is bypassed and the stomach connected to small intestine further downstream. Some involve a combination of the two.

These aim to reduce the space inside stomach so you feel fuller earlier, as well as decreasing the surface area over which nutrients and calories can be absorbed from your food.

They also affect hormones involved in satiety. This is how your body tells you that you are full.

Despite the “simplest” of these being a gastric band, there is no such thing as a simple procedure, and all require the hands of an expert, who can recognise complications immediately and in the long term, who is also available to provide after care. Currently, follow up by a specialist is two years after bariatric surgery.

Although weight loss surgery can produce drastic results, and even drive diseases like diabetes into remission, commitment following any operation has to be lifelong.

In the ten years following such a procedure, several individuals will have returned to their pre-op weight or even more without lifestyle changes.

For those not wishing to go under the knife, anti-diabetic injections, dubbed “weight loss pens”, have shown a good result.

Although not as dramatic as following bariatric procedures some patients have lost 10 per cent of their weight.

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This is a very exciting area with much research into non-operative methods of weight loss.

For anyone considering weight loss surgery, here or abroad, on the NHS or privately, it goes without saying that you must enter this with your eyes open.

Please research thoroughly. A good surgeon will never push a patient into a procedure and will always be willing to answer all your questions and give you as much time as you need to come to a decision.