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Obesity Surgery for Teens Is On The Rise

Obesity among children has become a growing problem. Kids don't exercise much, they eat tons of junk food, and spend hours on the couch watching TV and playing video games.

The number of U.S. children going through obesity surgery has tripled in recent years. At this rate, more than 1,000 kids under the age of 18 will have gone through such operations to cure their obesity this year.

Obesity operations, including gastric bypass and gastric banding, are much more common among adults, but it appears that it's less risky for teens. They have slightly shorter hospital stays than adults. Also, the mortality rate is significantly better there were no in-hospital deaths in the under 18 demographic. That's compared to 212 in-hospital adult deaths out of 104,702 obesity operations.

The youngest patients to have this operation were about 12 years old at the time, but most were older teens. The 20 year old, in the photo to the right, had a gastric bypass surgery when he was 17. At the time, he was 5'8" and 385 pounds. After struggling with his weight since age 11, with nothing working to decrease his weight, obesity surgery was his last resort.

I do feel it is really sad that anyone has to resort to this, especially children under 17 years of age. I think adults need to be positive role models for children on this issue - children mimic the behaviors around them. As soon as kids begin to eat, talk, and walk, the adults in their lives need to "model" healthy behaviors. We can teach them that green beans are tasty (I scream, you scream. We all scream for green beans!) and family walks are fun.

What do you think about all of this?

Join The Conversation
Butrfly4404 Butrfly4404 10 years
yeah, I don't think it's such a great idea, either. I UN.DER.STAND. where ya'll are coming from and I don't look down on (most) people who get the surgery. BUT I think if you're getting it in your teens, you are just kind of giving up hope of accomplishing it on your own. My uncle spent a lot of his life battling health complications from his obesity. After GB, he has like a newfound love for life...same thing with a co-worker that got it. HOWEVER...another (ex)co-worker got the surgery at 19, then she had a kid right away (not supposed to do that and she had TWO) she lost weight during both her pregnancies which I think is really - i guess WRONG - to not be nourishing yourself the best you can while you are carrying a life, but whatever. My big problem with her (and what made me realize that some people don't *deserve* that second chance) is that she was on state-paid (taxpayer paid) medical when she got the surgery...then EVERY DAY she sat here and ate chips and drank bottles of pepsi. She didn't give herself enough time before getting the surgery to A) make sure it wasn't going to affect her child-bearing years and B) understand whether or not she'd even BE ABLE to keep the weight off - her eating habits never changed, nobody worked with her and taught her how to live a healthier life, they just did the surgery. She lost a bunch of weight and figured she's free to eat what she wants. I'm not saying getting the surgery is bad. I watched my uncle struggle for a long time with his weight - and when it got to the point that he had a traech tube in his throat or couldn't sit down in normal chairs, I was happy that he found another solution to his problems. I just think that people should get educated and learn to live a healthy life before we start hacking into them expecting this one move to fix their lives forever.
Shebelle Shebelle 10 years
I am sorry but I don't agree. I think in order to have this surgery you have to first understand why you are doing it. I think children don't really have this understanding. I was an obese child you was constantly in and out of diets but couldn't stay on it because I didn't understand how important it was that I eat healthy and keep fit. I turned into a very obese grown up but at some point it just clicked and I realised in order to be healthy I will have to change the way I eat and exercise. I now work out 5 times a week and eat healthy and I have lost a lot of weight with it and will continue to lose weight until I am at a healthy weight. Losing weight is something you really have to want and if you really want it and you put your mind to it you can do it. I think surgery should really be the last resort and for children there is no last resort. What I think will happen to many of those kids is that they lose the weight but then gain it back when they are older.
divinedebris divinedebris 10 years
Wackdoodle- i agree with all the comments before me, you did a very brave thing. I think that people need to start changing their ideas about children and their eating habits. I'm 20 years old and i'm finding it hard to stick to a diet or at least eat healthier because it was never pressed upon me as a child. i'm not blaming my parents but i know that they never said no to anything. there was always sweets and junk food at my house and we had fast food to eat all the time. and i still eat fast food way too much and i can't say no to cravings. we need to set boundaries and stick to them, and that includes everything not just good. kids would be better off because of it.
Fitness Fitness 10 years
wackdoodle- Thank you so much for posting about this. Writing about your experience and the different procedures has educated us all. More power to you!!!! Great to hear that you feel good and are happy with the surgery.
ash_marisa ash_marisa 10 years
I agree. Bravo on the surgery. Surgery is always a great way to fix medical problems, which for some people this is indeed a medical issue. When I was in college I worked in a lab looking at receptors and chemical signaling in the brain and eating disorders (obesity and anorexia nervosa). Both disorders most definitely have differences in the brain. Most people with anorexia and those that are morbidly obese have neurological differences that affect hormone production and release, and well as variations in signaling pathways, etc. I just feel bad for people who think that just because someone is overweight that it is because they eat too much or are lazy. It is just extreme stupidity and ignorance, and its too bad there are so many uninformed people out there who think this way.
jahara jahara 10 years
From a purely medical standpoint, teens may have the most to gain from the surgery. If they are "candidates" for the surgery in their late teens, they are unlikely to successfully lose the weight in the next 10 - 20 years, that's just statistics. By having the surgery earlier, they may avoid some of the physical traumas of being so heavy, like osteoarthritis, diabetes, etc. Also, the skin snaps back a hell of a lot better at that age. It's obviously a major surgery and a major decision, but I don't think it's a bad idea for teens.
bpjedi bpjedi 10 years
Wackdoodle--you should be proud of your achievement and your bravery to go through this procedure. My cousin didn't go through it until her mother (my aunt) passed away due to complications to type 2 diabetes and obesity. While her mother hadn't gotten heavy until middle age, she had by her teens, and wanted to make sure she got to watch her daughter grow up. I'm proud of you both!
wackdoodle wackdoodle 10 years
None of your other readers seem to have any actual knowledge of what gastric bypass surgery is or what it does. I have had gastric bypass surgery (Roux En Y or RNY). I had it on September 5th of last year and it's major surgery and it's NOT cosemtic surgery. It is necessary life changing, body chemistry changing surgery. Before you comment on morbid obesity you need to understand that a person who is morbidly obese, those are the people regardless of age who are qualifying for these surgeries, has a body that work differently from someone who has a "normal" BMI. A morbidly obese person's body produces more hormones which inturn encourage the body to store more calories rather than expend calories additionally morbid obesity and depression often go hand-n-hand. For me my body was producing massive amounts of the the hormone estrogen which LOVES and needs fat also my stomach was continually producing a chemical that was telling my brain that I was not full. Once I had this surgery my estrogen levels have returned to normal levels and I finally know what "full" feels like because my stomach clearly tells my brain "enough already" something "normal" BMI already have. GBS surgically reduces (cuts) the size of the stomach to just about 2oz capacity and if a person has Roux En Y as I did their intestines are rerouted. A large portion of their small intestines are bypassed and the new small stomach pouch is reconnected to the large intestine. The goal of the surgery is to reduce the quantity of food a person can eat (and it does -6 months post-op I can only eat about 6 oz of food a day and it's not junkfood) and it reduces and alters how much nutrients and calories can be absorbed by the intestines. Most GBSers cannot eat more than 15 grams of sugar, or tolerate fat or lactose as they will make us physically ill from both ends (if you catch my drift). So there are MAJOR changes that happen to a person's body long term when they have GBS. Yes, they can stretch out their stomach over time but anyone can do that. Generally most of us have made invested so much time and effort in getting the procdure and researching exactly what is going to happen and how to live afterward that we are paranoid to do anything to destroy it. We don't want to be fat. We don't want to be the butt of your jokes or excluded from activities. We don't want to be stared at or ignored as if we don't exist. Or passed over for promotion because we are assumed to be lazy people because we are extremely overweight. We are now damned if we do this and damned if we don't. Well, I choose my health and the facts over thin people's opinions. This surgery works, the people who have had it know it works as do the surgeons. Its a tool that goes hand in hand with nutritional re-education and a full life style change. It's always so funny to we that have had the surgery that you who haven't and don't need it and know nothing about try to speak with authority about something you know nothing about - what it's like to have to say "I cannot control my weight myself. I am a failure and I need medical help." I will proudly wear my "I had Gastric Bypass Surgery!" t-shirt for as long as it lasts. So far I've lost over 75 lbs and feel incredibly light and airy. No matter how much I lose, I will always remember the 10 years I spent fat and I will always have empathy for my fellow fatties.
bpjedi bpjedi 10 years
Pinkrabbit--have you tried the "French Cut" frozen green beans from Trader Joes, or the organic Hairicot Verts from Whole Foods 365 brand? (The Trader Joes ones are cheap, but the WF ones aren't prohibitively expensive, as it is their store brand) Both are good prepared this simple way: Mince one clove of garlic or use about a teaspoon of the pre-minced kind in jars. Sautee the garlic in some extra-virgin olive oil in a frying pan at medium heat for a minute or so before adding half or a a third of the bag of frozen string beans. Turn up the heat, and cook until desired tenderness, moving constantly with a wooden (or metal if the pan is *not* teflon) spatula. I like 'em firm, so the beans are done in a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. You can also add a splash of balsalmic vinegar, and/or toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds. [I know I shouldn't post recipes here, but I couldn't resist, and figured this one wasn't quite involved enough for one of the cooking suites!]
SU3 SU3 10 years
I think that healthy eating habits need to start early - helping kids participate in sports and activities helps as well. I, too, think it's really sad that kids under 17 have to resort to this. After having gastric bypass surgery - their eating habits still need to be changed to a much MUCH healther diet so why not start early and prevent all of this!
lea88 lea88 10 years
i think they should just excercise because gastric bypass,would change anything just the way u will not help u change ur self.once u have this it can't be change which means u have it life like this and u have to change the way u eat u can't just eat anything u want whenever u want like u did befoe.oh,,i think that u should just set goals for yourslef instead of taking the easy way out.
Pinkrabbit Pinkrabbit 10 years
See I don't like green beans, or any other vegatable for that matter. I think that children to need to be taught limitations though. Weither it be with tv, food, computer. I think it's important to live like this otherwise you can have sad endings. My sister actually sits and eats all day. She comes home from school (she is 15) and just sits there. All weekend too. She was just never taught limitations. And here I am on the computer all day. Ha. Just my opinion though
I think that everyone should just toughen up on obese children. Make them run that race, make them go to school, despite if they get bullied, make them turn into strong-willed people with tough hearts. I reckon everyone can lose weight if they suffer enough!
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