Weight Loss Surgery for Children a Last Resort

Weight loss surgery should only be considered for severely obese children in the highest five percent of BMI, according to recent research by a team of health experts from the U.S. and UK.

Weight loss surgery is on the rise for adults but should be used only as a last resort only for children suffering from obesity, according to health experts in Britain and the United States. They recommend that bariatric surgery only be considered for severely obese children who have been unsuccessful losing weight using non-invasive methods.

In a review of studies on the obesity epidemic published in The Lancet, scientists advise parents and health care providers to encourage lifestyle changes for children suffering from obesity before resorting to more drastic measures, like weight loss surgery. A better diet and more active lifestyle should be implemented, researchers say, and treatment with drugs and surgery should be used rarely, if at all.

“The risks of bariatric surgery are substantial, and long-term safety and effectiveness in children remain largely unknown,” the authors wrote.

The Lancet review highlighted data up to 2006 showing that childhood obesity rates either doubled or trebled between the early 1970s and late 1990s in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Britain and the United States. Childhood obesity can have serious health consequences, including high blood pressure, diabetes and abnormal blood fats.

Weight loss surgery has been proven to be an effective treatment to curb obesity in adults; however, little data exists on the safety and effectiveness of bariatric surgery for children. In the Lancet report, scientists advised that surgery should be limited to children who have a body mass index over 50 and who are severely obese and have substantial health risk factors.

The authors urge doctors and parents to take a very conservative approach when considering drug therapy, and weight loss surgery should only be considered for children in the highest five percent of body mass index (BMI). They note that prevention and policies encouraging children to improve diets and maintain an active lifestyle is the best approach.

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