NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s estimated that as many as six million children in the United States are severely obese, but should teens resort to surgery to lose weight?
It’s a controversial topic, because most surgeries result in permanent change. But as CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, a new study found that surgery reduces many of the health risks associated with severe obesity.
At the age of 19, Leayre Sessley made the decision to have bariatric, or obesity, surgery. Just six months later, she’s about 70 pounds lighter.
“I was leaning towards to be a pre-diabetic, and my grandma’s a diabetic, and I did not want to end up like her or anyone else in my family who has high cholesterol, heart problems,” Sessley told CBS2.
It’s common for teens who struggle with severe obesity to already have increased risk factors which predict future heart disease.
In fact, a new report led by investigators at Nationwide Children’s Hospital found that almost every teenage candidate for bariatric surgery had high blood pressure, abnormal glucose levels, increased inflammation, or high cholesterol.
“The majority of our patients had not only one, but had multiple cardiovascular risk factors and in fact, 33 percent of the population studied had three or more identified cardiovascular risk factors,” Dr. Marc Michalsky said.
Three years after obesity surgery, the number of patients who had three or more of those risk factors dropped by about 85 percent, and less than half of all patients studied had any risk factors at all.
“The younger the patient at the time of surgery, the more likely they were to see some of the advantages that we’ve been observing as an overall group,” Dr. Michalsky said.
Researchers say that lifestyle changes like diet and exercise are important, but they’re often not enough for teens who have more than a hundred pounds to lose.
It’s made all the difference for Leayre.
“It’s a whole new life,” she said. “You have to be very serious about it and come in with an open mind and be willing to change.”
Doctors at Nationwide don’t go as far as saying that all obese teens should have surgery, but at the very least, teens over a hundred pounds overweight and their parents should have a conversation with their doctor about the option of bariatric surgery.
Surgery has risks, of course, but so does lifelong obesity.