Health & Fitness

The docs: Good news about bariatric surgery; beware: Xylitol is toxic to dogs

Q: I’ve tried everything to lose weight, and now I’m thinking about bariatric surgery. Will losing weight this way really improve my health and my life? -- Sharon G., Chicago

A: There’s a lot of good news about the benefits of bariatric surgery. We’re always advocates of lifestyle changes to improve weight management, and they’re equally as important for people who opt for bariatric surgery as they are for those who don’t! Adopting a walking program (heading for 10,000 steps a day); two days a week of strength training; and eating a diet free of all processed foods, red meat and saturated and trans fats, coupled with bariatric surgery can undo many of the health hazards associated with being overweight or obese, such as diabetes and osteoarthritis. It’ll make you feel younger and improve your life.

One of the biggest and best results of bariatric surgery and healthy lifestyle changes is that they will improve your sex life. A five-year study found that in the first year after bariatric surgery, sexual desire, sexual functioning and sexual satisfaction go up, up, up. And at year five, 39 percent of women and 55 percent of men say that they’re more sexually active than they were before surgery.

Other health benefits: For 80 to 100 percent of morbidly obese, gastric-bypass patients with Type 2 diabetes, surgery normalizes glucose, insulin and A1C levels. A new Cleveland Clinic study shows that bariatric surgery also is safe if you’re mildly obese or overweight and have Type 2 diabetes. And there’s more: Finnish researchers found that bariatric surgery normalizes brain circuits triggering a pleasurable sensation when eating, lessening the need to overeat to gain gratification. For folks with Type 2 diabetes, bariatric surgery cuts their risk of retinopathy in half. The weight loss and reduction in bodywide inflammation often reduces joint pain, too! Plus, you slash your health-care costs -- by 40 percent after four years, and by 80 percent if you had Type 2 diabetes before surgery! So good luck, and don’t forget to adopt those lifestyle changes too.

Q: You’re always so helpful to me with your advice for my dog that I thought I’d ask you about the sweetener called xylitol that’s in gum and candy and can be lethal for dogs. Why is it so dangerous for my dog, but not for me? -- Oscar W., Portland, Oregon

A: You are right that the sugar substitute xylitol is very toxic to dogs. It can cause a massive release of insulin, depending on the size of the dog and the amount ingested, that then dramatically lowers blood sugar, causing loss of coordination and even loss of consciousness. The dog’s liver becomes inundated by the overdose of insulin, and internal organs can shut down. Any dog that accidentally ingests xylitol should be taken to the vet immediately.

For people, xylitol is used as a sugar substitute. You can find it in diabetic snacks and foods because in humans it triggers a small release of insulin. It’s also found in baked goods, candies, gums, mints and mouthwashes, and in larger amounts in toothpaste, because it helps prevent tooth decay. Xylitol usually is a processed sweetener, but you can find organic xylitol that’s extracted from birch wood.

Back to your dog: I’m sure he’s well-trained, but he’s still a dog, and dogs will eat anything. Don’t leave gum in an open purse or have snacks containing xylitol on countertops. (Always read the labels!) And to keep your dog even safer, protect him from sampling dark chocolate; it can be fatal within 24 hours. Grapes and raisins can cause liver failure in dogs! Avocados, garlic, onions and Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs, but they are all good for people. So what you have to understand is that as smart as pooches are, dogs aren’t people -- they are just their glorious canine selves! So make sure your dog eats only what his vet wants him to.

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Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily@sharecare.com.

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