Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza Kosai Nik Mahmood – Celebrity Bariatric Surgeon in Malaysia

It is rare for us to hear about stories of celebrity surgeons. If we do, it might be the case that they work on a famous figure, especially with life-changing procedures such as plastic surgery. It’s more unlikely for us to hear a surgeon that made a name for himself by addressing the problems of day-to-day Malaysians. That’s how Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza Kosai Nik Mahmood made prominence in the medical industry, through promoting awareness of obesity prevention and treatment in the country.

Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nik Ritza started his career with a BSc in Medical Science from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and earned a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees from Manchester University. He then underwent basic and higher Specialist Surgical training in the North West of England Deanery. This led to a fellowship with the Royal College of Surgeons in General Surgery and Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training.

In 2011, Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza joined the Faculty of Medicine of the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), where he currently heads the Head of Upper Gastrointestinal, Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical unit. Also, he’s currently an examiner for the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) of Edinburgh and the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). He is part of the committee for the Subspecialty Upper GI training in Malaysia, the National Guidelines for Bariatric Surgery, and the National Obesity Guidelines.

Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza is the current President of the Malaysian Metabolic and Bariatric Surgical Society and is now a sessional consultant at Gleneagles Hospital in Kuala Lumpur. He also served as the Vice president of the Malaysian Upper GI Society and President of the Malaysia chapter of the International Federation of Surgery for Obesity (IFSO).

Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nik Ritza Kosai Nik Mahmood

Increasing Obesity Awareness in Malaysia

Obesity is a growing concern amongst many Malaysians. 1 in 2 adults in the country is categorized as overweight or obese. In 2019, the National Health and Mobility Survey revealed that 50% of the population, male or female, are considered overweight or obese. 1 of 2 of these cases tend to have abdominal obesity, where excess fat accumulates in the stomach and abdomen area. As a result, many Malaysians are at high risk of metabolic syndromes such as hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol problems, and high blood pressure.

“The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2019 findings, meanwhile, showed that 50.1 percent of adults in Malaysia were either overweight or obese – 30.4 percent were overweight and 19.7 percent obese.”

Asians have different genes compared to other races, which may factor in things like weight gain. However, according to experts, obesity due to solely genetics may happen but it would be rare. It’s more likely for a person to gain excessive weight due to poor lifestyle choices like inactivity and overeating.

Malaysia has a rich culture and tradition centred around food. Much like any other Asian countries, food is the centre of any celebration and a great way to connect with people. Sadly, the flavorful sensation that fills our palates also comes with high levels of sugar, salt, and fat. Match that with the difficulty for most adults to squeeze in time for exercise within their busy schedule. So, it’s not surprising that many Malaysians become overweight or obese.

Regardless of the alarming number of cases of obesity nationwide, people collectively still have a nonchalant attitude regarding the issue. In a sense, being more conscious of your food choices is like left out of one’s local culture. However, more and more are becoming conscious about their need to change, thanks to people like Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza.

Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza is the leading name when it comes to raising awareness regarding obesity in Malaysia. He has remained active in research regarding obesity, upper gastrointestinal cancers, and Helicobacter pylori, including several international collaborations. He has published 100 publications, book chapters, expert opinion catalogues, magazines and newspapers articles. As one of the bariatric surgeons in Malaysia, he has also been invited as a speaker for numerous local and international conferences and surgical workshops.

Aside from spreading information about the condition, Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza is also a strong advocate of bringing accessible weight loss solutions to many Malaysians. He established the UGI and Bariatrics unit at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz, the premier and the main referral centre for treatment for upper gastrointestinal cancers and obesity disorder in the country. The facility has performed over 1500 bariatric and metabolic surgeries to date, the most in Malaysia.

Aside from making a name in the industry, Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza also shares his medical expertise with a wider audience. He has appeared in numerous radio and television shows to talk about obesity risks and their treatments. He further spreads awareness online by actively sharing content on social media platforms such as Instagram and even Tiktok.

Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nik Ritza Kosai Nik Mahmood

Treating Obesity in Malaysia

In several interviews, Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza mentions that one of the best ways to lose weight is through lifestyle changes. The traditional formula of diet and exercise is still a viable option to shed off a few kilograms for people who are overweight. Some pills and injectables may ease the process, though make sure to have a doctor’s prescription for these.

However, for cases of morbid obesity, these solutions may not be enough. A person's Body Mass Index (BMI) can be used as an early indicator of being overweight or obese. In most cases, a BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight, more than 30 is considered obese, and morbid obesity is indicated by a BMI of greater than 40. A high BMI may be a sign that you’re at risk of metabolic complications. With that said, Asian people tend to form diseases, specifically diabetes, despite having a BMI below the obese bracket. That’s why many Malaysians do not realise that they’re affected by being overweight.

To treat more severe cases of obesity, bariatric surgery may be the way to go. Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza is one of the most notable bariatric surgeons in Malaysia. He and his team at UKM worked with many patients with varying degrees of weight problems.

Bariatric surgery, also referred to as weight loss surgery, can either be restrictive or malabsorptive. Restrictive surgeries shrink down the size of the stomach, limiting the amount of food you can eat. On the other hand, malabsorptive surgeries remove a part of the digestive tract, restricting the body’s absorption of calories.

Some of the bariatric surgeries that Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza and his team perform include gastric bypass surgery and sleeve gastrectomy.

Gastric bypass surgery combines both restrictive and malabsorptive techniques. It divides the stomach into an upper and lower portion. The small upper pouch is the only one that can store the food you eat, limiting the amount of food you can intake at a time. The procedure also involves cutting a short distance of the small intestine. The upper part of the stomach is then attached to the smaller connection of the small intestine. As a result, the food bypasses a part of the stomach and small intestine, so your body absorbs fewer calories.

On the other hand, sleeve gastrectomy is a restrictive weight loss surgery that removes 75% of the stomach. The remaining section of the stomach is then formed into a narrow tubelike, banana-shaped sleeve. By doing so, it doesn’t only limit the food you can store, but it also reduces the appetite-regulating hormone, ghrelin. The procedure does not change the body's absorption of calories and nutrients, though it helps lessen your craving for food.

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Sleeve Gastrectomy is the commonest type of bariatric surgery ( obesity surgery ) in the world. This what it looks like inside the stomach.

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Bariatric surgery is the only first step to treat morbid obesity. As mentioned earlier, changes in your lifestyle can help to further lose weight and maintain great results. Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza has a holistic approach to weight loss. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) has a multidisciplinary unit consisting of bariatric or obesity surgeons, endocrinologists, obesity physicians, respiratory physicians, cardiologists, ENT doctors, physiotherapists, dieticians, and experienced nurses.

With that said, there’s still a small number of people who opt to undergo surgery to treat obesity. The number of Asian people undergoing surgery is slowly increasing due to the increasing number of cases of obesity and diabetes in these communities. With the efforts of people like Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nik Ritza, many Malaysians are also becoming open to this option.

Remember, bariatric surgeries are recommended for more serious cases of obesity. Bariatric surgeons in Malaysia usually evaluate patients based on three categories: patients diagnosed as morbidly obese, obese patients with health problems, specifically diabetes, and patients with BMI of above 30 even without health problems.

Elipse Balloon is the first and only swallowable weight loss balloon in Singapore. Unlike other weight loss balloons in the market today, Elipse requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia. The inflated balloon comes as a capsule, which allows you to ingest it with a glass of water. After doing an X-ray to make sure the capsule is in place, the balloon is inserted with 550ml of baffled water. The doctor will run another X-ray to see if it is properly filled. The whole process only takes 20 minutes.

The swallowable weight loss balloon lasts for 16 weeks. After that period, a time-activated release valve opens and allows the balloon to deflate, where the remnants of the balloon are naturally excreted through your bowel movement. Clinical studies show that patients who use Elipse Balloon lose an average of 10-15% of their body weight within 16 weeks.

Much like Mr.Vasoo, alternative weight loss solutions are not enough. You need to create changes within your lifestyle to maintain good results. Elipse helps you in doing so by setting you up with a lifestyle program. Here, you will work with a team of professionals, such as doctors & nutritionists, to create a personalized weight loss plan, including diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices, that will help you achieve your ideal weight. You’ll also be registered in the Allurion smart scale and app, which helps you and your professional team monitor your progress.

Obesity is not a laughing matter. It is a serious condition that can threaten your health in the long run. So, you need to do everything you can to prevent any complications from happening.

With that said, if you find yourself at a dangerous weight, it is not the end. There are various ways to shed off a few kilograms, whether it’s through traditional means, surgery, or swallowable weight loss balloons like Elipse. To start your journey, consult a professional to know which approach best suits your goals.

Finding Alternative Solutions in Malaysia

If you don’t fall under any of the categories mentioned above, bariatric surgery may be a step too far in your weight loss surgery. There are alternative weight loss solutions out there that can be as effective in helping you shed off excess weight.

Aside from surgery, Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza also uses gastric balloons for weight loss treatment. Weight loss balloons are placed in the stomach and filled with a special liquid, taking up space that food normally would occupy. The balloon helps you feel full faster and longer, minimizing the calories you eat. Prof. Dato Dr. Nik Ritza and his team in UKM specifically uses the Allurion Elipse Balloon.

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Allurion Elipse Balloon is the first and only swallowable weight loss balloon in Malaysia. Most traditional gastric balloons use anaesthetics and endoscopy in their placement. Allurion Elipse Balloon requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anaesthesia. The inflated balloon comes in a form of a capsule, allowing you to ingest it with a glass of water. Then, you’ll undergo an X-ray to make sure the inflated balloon is placed properly in the stomach. The outer capsule dissolves and the balloon is filled with 550ml of water, or until it’s the size of a grapefruit. Another X-ray is run to see if it’s properly filled. The whole process only takes 20 minutes.

The Elipse Balloon lasts inside the stomach for 16 weeks. Within that period, it shows that patients who use the weight loss balloon lose an average of 10-15% of their body weight. After 16 weeks, a time-activated release valve opens and allows the balloon to deflate and the remnants of the balloon are naturally excreted through your bowel movement.

Much like bariatric surgeries, Allurion Elipse Balloon is only the first step towards a holistic approach to weight loss. Weight loss balloons are temporary. You may have another balloon placed upon the doctor’s approval. Although to help you maintain your results, Elipse sets you up with a lifestyle program that helps you create smart body choices and keep you motivated throughout the process. Here, you will work with a team of professionals, such as doctors & nutritionists, to create a personalized weight loss plan according to your specific needs. You’ll also be registered in the Allurion smart scale and app, which helps you and your professional team monitor your progress.

Obesity is something we need to take more seriously. It is no longer just about how it affects our appearance but also how we can avoid putting our health at risk. Despite the growing health systems in the country, many Malaysian are still unaware of how their weight can have an impact on their life. There’s nothing wrong with indulging yourself from time-to-time, as long as you strike the right balance with healthy lifestyle choices.

To know more about Prof. Dato’ Dr. Nik Ritza and facts about obesity and bariatric treatments, you can check out his Instagram and Tiktok. Remember to share this information with friends, family, and loved ones. You can take part in increasing the awareness of obesity in Malaysia online. A simple click can help someone save their life.