Science, research, and health care policy issues relating to obesity, metabolic disease, and bariatric surgery were among the topics discussed at this year’s 80th Annual Scientific Meeting of American College of Gastroenterology. The ACG conference, which was held in Honolulu, Hawaii, from October 16-21, 2015, included more than 4,000 participants, as well as 2,524 submitted abstracts and 67 oral papers presented by physicians, clinicians, and researchers with expertise in GI diseases. The presentations were designed to highlight new insights into the latest scientific advances related to GI research, disease treatments and clinical practice management, including those addressing the obesity epidemic.
One of the standout subjects at the conference this year was a focus on obesity and metabolic syndrome in relation to issues such as an increase in health care costs, the predominance of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in patients with obesity even after performing bariatric surgery, the influence of obesity on gastrointestinal bleeding mortality, the higher risk of metabolic syndrome in older people with Hispanic ethnicity, and the development of acute pancreatitis in patients with severe obesity. You can watch the briefing here.
The focus on obesity issues in the context of GI-related medicine helped to make for a wide-ranging conference that touched on several major public health issues. “This year is the best ever in terms of the quality of the science being presented, as well as depth and breadth of the educational sessions,” said John R. Saltzman, MD, FACG, Chair, ACG Educational Affairs Committee, Director of Endoscopy, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, in a press release.
Gastrointestinal (GI) diseases are typically defined as conditions associated with inflammation, infection, and structural abnormalities of the stomach and intestinal tract. Worldwide, millions of people of all ages are affected by GI diseases that represent an enormous burden in terms of social suffering and economic costs. GI diseases and conditions cause discomfort, ranging from inconvenience to deep personal distress. Symptoms of GI conditions depend on the affected part of the digestive system, and common signs include diarrhea, constipation, nausea/vomiting, heartburn/acid reflux, and bloating.
Addressing and treating obesity in the context of GI medicine is appropriate, given that gastrointestinal function involves absorption of calories and nutrients involved in the metabolic process, while bariatric surgery — also known as “weight loss surgery” — which involves surgical procedures that either temporarily or permanently alter the GI tract. As bariatric surgery is increasingly regarded as among the most effective means of addressing obesity, its inclusion in GI-related conferences is bound to become more prevalent as researchers and physicians look to improve best practices in treating the disease.