By Bernard Muthaka
After landing a job straight after college, Nancy Mugure’s friends were quick to compliment her on the success her life had turned out to be. They could tell because she had put on quite some weight, unlike the skinny college girl they knew. Though the good times continued to roll, she knew she always carried her weight well, and certainly never considered herself overweight.
Today, 15 years on, Nancy has tried almost every weight loss regime she has read about, with little success, and she has more or less given up hope of ever getting help.
Lack of awareness
According to Dr Lyudmyla Shchukina, obesity continues to cause anguish to many people in Kenya, but lack of awareness about available solutions has meant that patients continue to try numerous unhelpful concoctions and exercise regimes.
At the Limohouse Hospital Clinic, she and her husband Dr Vladimir Shchukin are running Kenya’s only bariatric surgery clinic, where they offer both surgical and non-surgical weight loss treatment.
The clinic offers bariatric surgery (including insertion of the gastric band, gastric sleeve resection and gastric bypass) to patients who are seriously obese, and psychological methods for correction of eating habits for those who are not extremely overweight.
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Obesity has been declared by the World Health Organisation WHO) not only as an epidemic of the 21st Century, but also the fastest spreading disaster of the century. Worrying estimates indicate that today about one in five Kenyans is obese, compared to about one in ten, three years ago.
Obesity is an excessive deposit of fat in the body. The fat that accumulates around the large organs of the body such as the heart, lungs, stomach and others (known as visceral fat) is the most dangerous.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
Studies have linked obesity to numerous diseases, including diabetes, chronic back pain, hypertension, coronary heart diseases, atherosclerosis, hormonal imbalance, gallstones, and some cancers.
The body mass index (BMI) and/or waist circumference are the basic indicators of one’s status.
To know your BMI, you take your weight in kilogrammes and divide by the square of your height in metres. If the answer is anything from 30 upwards, it means you are obese.
Alternatively you can check your waist circumference. For men, a waist circumference of 40 or more inches is a danger sign, while for women the danger threshold is 35 inches.
According to Dr Shchukina, obesity has been found in 30 per cent of patients with heart attacks, 61 per cent of patients with stroke, 76 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes and 29 per cent of patients with cancer of the colon. Despite these figures, less than half of physicians recommend surgical consultation for obese patients, and only about 1 per cent of the surgeons are aware of the modern methods of conservative therapy available locally, she says.
She says the clinic has the combination of non-surgical methods that have resulted in an 85 per cent success rate, with patients losing between five and ten kilogrammes in a month.
“With non-surgical approaches, we work out new eating habits with the patient. No single type of food is prohibited, no reduction in volume of the food, no starving, no appetite-suppressing medications or laxatives,” says Dr Shchukina.