Severely obese children as young as TWELVE should be offered gastric bypasses ‘because it is safe and effective’, paediatricians say
- American Academy of Pediatrics made recommendation after evidence review
- Studies researchers looked at showed no ill effect on children’s development
- They say treatment should be offered to children and teens with BMI over 40
Weight loss surgery is normally reserved as a last resort option for severely obese adults who have struggled with their weight for decades.
But doctors are now calling for more overweight children to be offered the drastic surgery to tackle the problem early on.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says more youngsters – including obese pre-teens – should be put forward for bariatric surgery, which involves shrinking their stomachs to stop them overeating.
It made the recommendation based on a review of several studies which showed the treatment to be a safe option.
Doctors are calling for more overweight children to be offered weight loss surgery (file image)
They found surgery in teenagers resulted in rapid weight loss which lasted several years and caused diabetes and high blood pressure – side effects of obesity – to vanish.
While most of the studies reviewed looked at teenagers, one included children younger than 12 and found no negative impacts on their growth, the researchers said.
Doctors have typically refrained from putting youngsters forward for surgery over fears it may stunt their development.
Recent data showed just 2,000 weight loss operations are carried out on children and teenagers each year, despite surgery rates having tripled in the last 20 years.
WHAT IS OBESITY? AND WHAT ARE ITS HEALTH RISKS?
Obesity is defined as and adult having a BMI of 30 or over.
A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
Obesity can spur on conditions including type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.
Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.
The AAP now recommends that surgery, which costs up to $20,000 (£15,600), should be considered a safe option and should be covered by insurance for young people.
They say youngsters should be eligible for surgery if their body mass index is 40 or higher, or at least 35 if they have major health problems. A BMI of 30 and above is considered obese.
Lead author Dr Sarah Armstrong admitted youngsters who have not gone through puberty may not be mature enough to understand the life-changing implications of surgery.
The operation causes patients to be physically sick if they overeat, or consume foods high in fat or sugar.
It can also prevent patients from taking in vital nutrients, as they can only consume a limited amount of food.
But Dr Armstrong, a professor of pediatrics at Duke University, said that age alone should not rule it out as a potential treatment.
She added: ‘Children with severe obesity develop health problems earlier than those with lesser degrees of obesity, including diabetes, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnoea.
‘Safe and effective is the message here,’ she said of the review.
Childhood obesity is now the number one health concern among parents in the US, topping drug abuse and smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
There are 4.8million American children between ages 10 and 17 that are obese, latest figures show.
Obesity is a risk factor for several devastating chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, strokes, heart attack and even certain types of cancer.
Prevention is important early in life as studies have shown that five-year-olds who are overweight are four times as likely to be obese by age 14 as children with normal weights.
Nearly 22 per cent of kids from families living below the federal poverty level are obese compared to 10 per cent from families living 400 percent above the poverty level.
That’s a comparison of a household of four with an annual income of $25,100 (£19,500) compared to a household of comparable size with an annual income of $117,680 (£91,750).
Discrepancies are also apparent among races. The obesity rate among black kids is 22.2 per cent and 19 per cent of Hispanic kids are obese.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide