The rate of adolescent obesity has shown a worrisome trend over the past decades. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently stated that teens who are moderately to severely overweight have multiplied tenfold in the last 40 years, making it one of the most important public health problems worldwide.
Owing to this massive hike, there has been a rise in premature morbidity. Studies have also shown that teenagers with obesity are reported to experience behavioral disorders and suicidal thoughts.
In this article, we will explore why adolescents choose weight loss surgeries and whether these are safe for them.
Why Do Adolescents Choose Weight Loss Surgery?
The likelihood of teenagers who are overweight to remain overweight or develop obesity in their adulthood is high.
And most adolescents who are obese endure the same health problems as obese adults, like diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, fatty liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and cardiovascular diseases.
If they get exposed to these comorbidities in their teenage years it often worsens as they age. They are also at higher risk of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and impaired relationships.
The first line of treatment for obesity includes lifestyle management and medicinal treatments, including dietary and behavioral modifications and pharmacotherapy.
Unfortunately, these conservative treatments have been shown to have less efficiency in severely overweight or obese adolescents.
Considering the adverse effect of prolonged obesity and the inefficiency of these non-surgical options, doctors suggest surgical procedures in adolescents.
Are Weight Loss Surgeries Safe For Teens?
Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is a commonly done procedure in adults with severe obesity who no longer show any reactions to non-surgical conservative treatments.
But now doctors and pediatricians are considering it for treating obese adolescents. And the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also approved it as safe for teens with severe obesity. This has given hope to millions of adolescents.
Most teens are observed to have lost 26 percent of their body weight within five years of the weight loss surgery. Studies have also shown a significant reduction in comorbidities like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, apnea, fatty liver disease, and an overall improved quality of life in teens after the surgery.
Although adolescent bariatric surgery is approved to be safe, it has certain challenges. Not all overweight teens can go through the procedure.
Doctors can only consider bariatric surgery for teens who have a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 35 with one or more obesity-related complications and for teens with a BMI greater than or equal to 45 with or without complications.
And performing surgery is not a quick or permanent fix. Teens undergoing the procedure have to put in a lot of effort before and after the surgery. Before the surgery, the doctors would run several tests to identify the complications.
Then you will be assisted by dietitians and physical trainers who will guide you in regulating the diet and doing exercises. You will have to maintain this for at least a period of six months to prepare yourself ready for the operation.
It is observed that after the surgery, the body may not be able to absorb some nutrients and vitamins as they should have. Therefore, teens who underwent the surgery will need to take vitamin supplements for the rest of their life.
Regular follow-up is also required to maintain the weight. Another issue to worry about is mental health issues that can come after the surgery. If it becomes overwhelming it is advised to reach out to a medical professional.
Adolescents with obesity are at risk for developing significant comorbidities including diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, fatty liver disease, depression, and impaired social life.
And there is often a risk of persistent obesity into adulthood and premature mortality. Mostly, conservative weight management treatments are suggested as the initial treatment to lose weight. But these are observed to have minimal results.
While weight loss surgery is now considered safe for teens with severe obesity. It can give teens a new turn in life.
These surgeries are observed to have superior and durable results compared to conservative techniques. But it is a decision which has to be chosen with utmost care.
Even though these can help in reducing the risks of comorbidities and improve the quality of life, it comes with a handful of challenges. So, it is recommended to have regular check-ups with medical professionals to ensure prolonged results.