A new study suggests that weight loss surgery offers long-term benefits among severely obese teens. In fact, outcomes are better among them than among adult obese patients.
US researchers led by Dr Thomas Inge who works as the teen weight loss program surgical director of Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati conducted what could be one of the biggest studies on the impact of weight loss surgery among teens. They worked with more than 200 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 across 5 centers in the country. On the average, their body mass index (BMI) was 53. BMI 30 and above are already considered obese.
All of the teens went through any of the two common bypass procedures and then assessed three years after the surgery.
Based on the results, although the teens were still considered obese, their average BMI went down to 38. They also had significantly improved health markers that could reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. For example, around 60% of the participants no longer had problems with high cholesterol while over 85% experienced abnormal kidney function reversal. They also had better blood pressure readings than adults. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that 95% of them no longer had diabetes, a percentage that's more than what the researchers expected among the group. Teens also reported better mental health with many expressing their newfound confidence.
The researchers credited the better positive outcomes compared to adults to earlier intervention.
However, the rapid weight loss also came at a price. Around 50% of them had low levels of iron, which could be corrected by taking vitamin supplements. Moreover, many of them underwent bladder surgery to remove gallstones. According to Dr Inge, gallstones can happen during obesity and quick weight loss.
In the United States, the rate of childhood obesity quadrupled among teens within three decades. Around 70% of obese teens between 5 and 17 years old have at least one cardiovascular risk factor.