Weight Loss Surgery May Offer Unique Benefits for Teens

A new study shows that teens who undergo bariatric surgery are even more likely than adults to see an improvement in type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

Obesity is a serious health condition that affects millions of Americans, including a growing number of children and teens. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 20.6% of teens between the ages of 12 and 19 are obese. These young people are at a greater risk of developing conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and sleep apnea, and often have a more difficult time managing these illnesses.

Fortunately, bariatric surgery may be an effective option for teens suffering from weight-related health problems. For instance, a recent report appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that weight loss procedures may provide even more benefits for teens than they do for adults.

While weight loss surgery for teens is still relatively rare, it is likely to become more common as further research is done. At Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors, we currently require bariatric surgery patients to be at least 18 years old, just at the end of their teen years. However, our expert surgeons and knowledgeable care staff closely follow all cutting-edge research that explores potential new avenues of treatment.

Here’s what people of any age should know about the benefits and risks of weight loss procedures and the research that is being done to expand their availability.

Study Reveals Weight Loss Surgery Benefits for Teens

The goal of the NEJM study was to compare how bariatric surgery results differ between adolescents and adults. To accomplish this, the researchers looked at 161 teens (aged 12 to 19) and 396 adults (aged 25 to 50) who underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, and measured the results of patients five years after they received the surgery.

Average weight loss was similar for both groups, with teens losing 26% of their body weight and adults losing 29%. However, the differences in diabetes management were more significant. Both groups saw an improvement in diabetes symptoms, but five years post-surgery, teens with type 2 diabetes were 27% more likely than adults to have controlled blood glucose without the use of diabetes medication. In fact, no teens needed diabetes medication after surgery, compared to 26% of adults. (Before the procedure, 88% of teens and 79% of adults used diabetes medication.)

Similarly, five years after surgery, teens were less likely to need blood pressure medication than adults. Before their weight loss procedures, 57% of teens and 68% of adults used blood pressure medication. Afterwards, these percentages dropped to 11% and 33%, respectively.

Is Weight Loss Surgery a Good Option for Teens?

According to Dr. Thomas Inge, one of the NEJM study’s co-authors and director of pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, “These new findings demonstrate that greater benefit can be achieved when surgery takes place earlier rather than later in life.”

Because young people with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure often have a harder time managing these conditions, bariatric surgery may be an effective option. If type 2 diabetes is not treated proactively, it can cause cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and even blindness. Fortunately, weight loss surgery can help reverse type 2 diabetes in teens before it leads to serious health problems.

Bariatric procedures can be life-changing, but they require a firm commitment to achieve long-term weight loss. Patients — especially young adults — need to fully understand the benefits and risks of these surgeries, as well as the lifestyle changes they require. These include following a new diet and exercise regimen, and attending a support group throughout the process.

If you’re considering weight loss surgery, set up an appointment with Long Island Laparoscopic Doctors. Our experienced team will help you determine which treatment is right for you and provide information and support along the way. Get started on your weight loss journey today!