Obesity is estimated to affect an estimated five million young people in the United States alone. Studies are currently underway to evaluate laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding as a possible treatment option for adolescents.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 12.4 percent of 2-5 year olds are obese; for 6-11 year-olds it’s 17.0 percent; and for 12-19 year-olds it’s 17.6 percent. Health risks as a result of obesity include heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, and sleep apnea. Obesity in childhood often leads to obesity in adulthood.
A randomized trial reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared the outcomes of gastric banding with an optimal lifestyle program and concluded that “among obese adolescent participants, use of gastric banding compared with lifestyle intervention resulted in a greater percentage achieving a loss of 50 percent of excess weight, corrected for age. There were associated benefits to health and quality of life.”
After following the subjects for two years, researchers found that the gastric banding group lost an average of 28.3 percent of total body weight and 78.8 percent excess weight. The lifestyle only group lost an average of 3.1 percent of total body weight and 13.2 percent of excess weight. There were some complications, with one in three patients requiring follow-up surgeries.
In laparoscopic gastric banding, an adjustable band is placed around the stomach to decrease its size. It is a less invasive procedure than gastric bypass or stomach stapling and the band can be adjusted or removed later. Long-term outcome is unknown at this time.
ABC News reports that U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering broadening its standards on gastric banding to include teens aged 14 to 17. The procedure is currently approved for adults only.
Despite the positive results of the gastric banding study, barring the most urgent of circumstances, one must question such drastic measures in the very young.
The results of the study were released on the heels of First Lady Michelle Obama’s announcement that she will be championing the cause of ending childhood obesity. A newly launched website, LetsMove.gov, provides information on the lifestyle and societal changes necessary to move kids toward a healthier life.
The single most important weapon we have in the fight against childhood obesity is ourselves. In most cases, childhood obesity is brought on by poor eating habits learned in very early childhood and reinforced by parental example. Whether we have young children at home or not, we are part of a society that has lost its way when it comes to matters of health — diet and exercise in particular. It is within our power to change, and we shouldn’t waste another minute.
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