Dr. Michael Talbot

Dr. Michael Talbot


As we continue to build our content here on the site, I thought it might be useful to post some previous information and discussions that Dr Talbot has presented on the subject of weight loss surgery, gastric bading and other related topics.

Back in 2007, 60 Minutes did a story on weight loss surgery and Dr Talbot then did the after program chat ad a transcription of the chat can be found here on the 60 Minutes web site.

Heres a short extract of the chat – for the full chat, please go to the 60 Minutes site.

Chat: Obesity surgeon, Dr Michael Talbot
Monday, October 15, 2007
60 Minutes presents a live interview with obesity surgeon, Dr Michael Talbot from UNSW.

Interviewer: Dr Talbot, thank you for joining us to talk about this important subject.

Michael Talbot: Thanks for having me tonight I am happy to answer questions people may have about this operation or other weight loss operations.

Fred asks: There is no doubt that obesity is a big problem in Australia. What percentage of the country is obese?

Michael Talbot: It would appear that in Australia approximately 60 to 70 percent are overweight or obese.

Tick asks: What compulsory education exists in schools to warn people about the dangers of obesity?

Michael Talbot: Unfortunately not enough. There are the beginnings of a public health campaign to help educate people about this serious issue but it is not as developed as other health campaigns such as drinking and smoking. I am not aware of obesity educating being built into the primary or secondary curriculum.

Will asks: Obesity and weight seem to still be somewhat a taboo subject. We see lots of advertisements warning people about the dangers of smoking, why don’t we see advertisements warning people about the dangers of obesity?

Michael Talbot: Because the causes of obesity are multiple. Fixing just one or two factors isn’t going to get rid of obesity. Unfortunately a campaign against obesity could very easily turn into a campaign against fast food and snack foods and this would not be popular.

hufste asks: Dr Talbot, how do you decide if an obese individual can only be saved by surgery? BMI, fat percentage or something else? And what is the number for this indicator?

Michael Talbot: In general people have had to try and have failed a wide range or conservative weight loss measures. And they have to be sufficiently overweight or troubled by weight problems to warrant the risks of the operation. It is very uncommon to offer surgery to people with a BMI or Body Mass Index less than 35 (30 odd kg’s overweight), and the majority of people having surgery are severely obese with a BMI over 40. A number will also have medical problems from their weight such as diabetes, sleep apnoea or bad arthritis.

Tick asks: We have seen some recent statistics released in the media about obesity rates in children in particular. How does Australia compare to other countries in terms of obesity rates?

Michael Talbot: Our obesity rates in children is very high and we probably only lag behind America, in our rates of obese children. It is unfortunate the majority of obese children will grow into obese adults and many will have middle age diseases when they are in their 20s and 30s.

Pics asks: To what extent are we as a nation well informed about obesity and its impacts on health?

Michael Talbot: Poorly. Obesity is a problem that is so big and so complex that we haven’t even begun to sensibly address any of the issues that cause it. We are at least 10 or 15 years away from any health policy change which will affect the increasing range of obesity that we have.

Yee asks: To what extent have fad diets such as Atkins, South Beach diet and other detox style diets been successful in helping obese people loose weight? Do they actually work?

Michael Talbot: There is only marginal evidence that they have a beneficial effect at all. There is no doubt the dieting process will often educate people about the difference between low calorie and high calorie foods. The nature of fad diets presents people with conflicting information that can lead people to be confused about what they should try to do in order to lose weight. Only a very small percentage of very overweight people will ever manage to lose weight with a diet.

Marcia asks: I think i might be a suitable candidate for obesity surgery. What steps do I take to see someone to get an operation?

Michael Talbot: You need to find a surgeon, preferably someone close to where you live and preferably someone who has a lot of experience. You will also need a referral from your general practitioner.

Unfortunately, the Governments of all Australian States are very resistant to allowing overweight people to have this surgery in public hospitals, and the costs of the operation without medical insurance are very high. Without access to medical insurance a lot of people who probably should be offered surgery are missing out at the moment.