Obesity surgery benefits may be bigger for teens than adults

Dr. Thomas Inge at the University of Colorado wanted to know when it’s best to have surgery

Teens who have obesity surgery lose as much weight as those who have the operation as adults and are more likely to have other health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure go away, a study finds.

The results suggest there’s a benefit from not waiting to address obesity. Researchers say longer study is still needed to know lifetime effects of this radical surgery and that it’s a personal decision whether and when to try it.

The study was published Thursday by the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the Combating Childhood Obesity conference in Houston. The National Institutes of Health paid for it, and some researchers consult for makers of obesity surgery tools.

The damaging effects of obesity accumulate, and the risk of developing other diseases and dying prematurely rises the longer someone goes. Surgery is usually reserved for people who can’t lose enough weight through other means — diet, exercise and sometimes medicines — and are severely obese.

Researchers led by Dr. Thomas Inge at the University of Colorado wanted to know whether it’s better or safer to have it in mid-life, the most common time now, or sooner before many of those other health problems appear or do much harm.

They compared results from two studies of gastric bypass surgery, which creates a much smaller stomach pouch, in 161 teens and 396 adults who had been obese since they were teens. Five years after their operations, both groups had lost 26% to 29% of their weight.

Diabetes went into remission in 86% of teens and 53% of adults who had that disease before their operations; high blood pressure did the same in 68% of teens and 41% of adults. Some side effects were more common in teens, and they were twice as likely to need a second operation.

One troubling finding: Although about 2 per cent of each group died, two of the teens did so from drug overdoses, suggesting substance abuse and self-harm may be a concern.

Overall, the results are consistent with an earlier study comparing teens and adults, Ted Adams of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City wrote in a commentary in the journal.

“Almost 6% of adolescents in the United States are severely obese, and bariatric surgery is now the only successful, long-term treatment option” for them, he wrote.

Most obese teens stay obese as adults, and adults who were obese as teens have worse health than people who started to weigh too much at an older age, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice to have surgery earlier than later, he warned.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marilynn Marchione, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Interior Health study offers take-home drug testing kits to spot fentanyl

Interior Health to evaluate safety of at home drug testing kits aimed at reducing fentanyl overdoses

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

UPDATE: B.C. pilot killed in Honduras plane crash

The crash happened in the Roatan Islands area, according to officials

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Most Read