Defeating Childhood Obesity with the Gastric Sleeve Surgery

It’s tough enough to deal with obesity as an adult. But when kids and teens battle weight problems, it takes a huge toll on their minds and bodies that almost always continues into adulthood. But help, in the form of gastric sleeve surgery, can create a healthy new future for teens and their families.


The Scary Statistics of Childhood Obesity

As it turns out, the numbers are worse than we thought. A new global study published in The Lancet found that 10 times more kids are obese today than they were 40 years ago. Twenty percent of U.S. youth age five to 19 are obese—not just overweight, but obese. That’s one in five kids. And that trend is predicted to get even worse in years to come, according to obesity researcher Harry Rutter of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


How Obesity Affects Kids

The same diseases that plague obese adults—like Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure—are hitting kids as young as age five today. These illnesses are taking years, or even decades, off our children’s lives. Because when you’re obese as a child, it increases the likelihood of becoming an obese adult bya lot, which brings with it a dramatically elevated risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.


That’s not something I want for any child, let alone my own.


And the mental impact of being obese is just as worrisome. Obese adolescents are many times more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and social stigma, as well as being targeted by bullies. They’re also more apt to take risks when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and sexual behavior.


How Gastric Sleeve Surgery Can Help

Losing weight is, of course, the solution to these issues. But the usual diet-and-exercise advice that often fails adults also fails teens. Sometimes their bodies simply won’t shed pounds without intervention. And that’s where gastric sleeve can be a game-changer.


Studies have repeatedly shown that bariatric surgery helps teens lose a significant amount of weight quickly, and that weight tends to stay off. It’s as safe as it is for adults—often even more so because teens tend to be healthier going into surgery than adults. What many parents like about the gastric sleeve option, as opposed to other bariatric surgeries, is that no foreign objects are placed in their kids’ bodies, and the digestive process remains the same because the intestines aren’t rerouted. In short, gastric sleeve “messes” with the body as little as possible.


The thing that parents and their kids like best, though: With the weight gone, the teen’s risk of current (and future) mental and physical health problems disappears, too.


Gastric Sleeve Surgery Can Change Young Lives


As with adult patients, there are some guidelines for teen gastric sleeve candidates. Typically, I require that my patients be at least 14 years old with a BMI of at least 35, are at near-physical maturity, and undergo an evaluation with a mental health professional. The other “must” is family support. Since teens depend on adults, they need family members who are willing to provide healthy food and drive them to doctor’s visits.


When all of these factors are in place, gastric sleeve can be a life-changing experience. Many times, teens lose weight faster than their adult counterparts; two years out, the average teen patient has lost 65 percent of excess weight. But often, the results are even more dramatic than that.


Take my patient, Betsy, for example. Overweight since she was a little girl, she underwent gastric sleeve at Endobariatric when she was 14 years old. From the beginning, it was like a miracle for her. “(At nine months post-surgery) I had already reached my goal weight,” she says. “I feel great. Now I like doing things I didn’t enjoy before—like shopping for clothes. I think the surgery is a very good option for people my age.”


If you’re a teen or the parent of a teen who may benefit from gastric sleeve surgery, get in touch with us at Endobariatric today to learn more.