Weight loss surgery can enable obese teenagers to sustainably reduce their weight.
This is according to two studies published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal which show that gastric bypass surgery can help severely obese teenagers lose weight and keep it off for over five to twelve years.
A person is classified as severely obese if their Body Mass Index (BMI) is greater than 40, or they have more than 45 kilogrammes over their ideal body weight.
Findings of the studies showed that weight loss resulting from the surgery led to additional health benefits such as reductions in diabetes cases, high cholesterol levels and hypertension disease among the teenagers that underwent the procedure.
The researchers note that the two studies are the first to look at long-term effects of gastric bypass surgery in teenagers.
Until now, it has been unclear how successful the surgery is in the long-term and whether it can lead to complications.
In the first paper, researchers studied 58 American teenagers who were severely obese and had gastric bypass surgery.
Average BMI was reduced from 59 before surgery to 36 a year later. After eight years, average BMI was 42, equivalent to a loss of 50 kilograms per person or a 30 per cent weight reduction.
In the second study, severely obese teenagers and adults from Sweden who had undergone gastric bypass surgery enjoyed a 28 per cent weight reduction.
Gains outweigh side-effects
However, some recipients of this surgery also suffered from side effects linked to rapid weight loss such as mild anaemia, vitamin deficiencies, bowel blockage and gallstones later in life.
However, given the long-term weight loss and health gains resulting from the surgery, the researchers stated that these benefits outweigh small and manageable risks of nutritional deficiencies.
“Weight loss is crucial for severely obese patients who face poor health and shorter life spans,” said Dr Thomas Inge, lead author of the first study from the US based Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre.
“Gastric bypass results in substantial weight loss as well as cutting heart and metabolic problems and improving quality of life for severely obese teenagers,” added Dr Torsten Olbers, lead author of the second study from the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden.
He however noted that to reduce the risk of complications, gastric bypass surgery for teenagers should be done in centres that can provide full care, long-term follow up and support to the patients.
The Ministry of Health has over the years raised concerns over the growing number of obesity cases among children in Kenya.
Doctors note that these weight problems are largely to blame for the increase in the number of children suffering from lifestyle diseases such as Type 2 diabetes.