PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Weight loss surgery is more effective at reversing serious health issues in teenagers than adults, according to a recent study.
The study, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, showed both groups lost weight at about the same rate, but teenagers were more likely to shed complications from obesity, including type two diabetes and high blood pressure.
“The overall health effects for teenagers are more dramatic and more long-lasting than they are for adults,” explained Dr. Elizabeth Renaud, who specializes in adolescent bariatric surgery. “That offers real hope for some kids that are pretty sick.”
There’s a debate in the medical community about how young is too young for weight loss surgery.
Teenagers must be at least 15-and-a-half years old to be considered for bariatric surgery through Lifespan’s Adolescent Weight Management Program. It takes a minimum of six months to determine if a teenager is a good candidate for the procedure.
“We need to look at physical maturity, have they achieved their full height, their full physical stature,” Dr. Renaud explained. “Once they have the operation, we’re putting fewer nutrients into them, and we don’t want to affect their bone growth.”
“The other part is psychological,” she added. “This is a choice for the rest of their lives and we have to make sure they really understand what they’re getting into.”
Dr. Renaud’s team will only consider surgery for teenagers who have a body mass index of 40 or greater.
“What we’re focused on here is not getting skinny kids,” she said. “We’re focused on getting healthy kids.”
About 1 in 5 teenagers is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).