Bariatric surgery, also known as weight loss surgery, in obese teens was recently linked with dramatic health improvements including lower blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of diabetes. The teens’ kidney function was also improved and they lost on average 27 percent of weight after the procedure.
Yet there were some drawbacks of the procedure: 13 percent of patients needed to undergo extra surgery to have their gall bladder removed, while more than 50 percent needed iron supplements since they were diagnosed with iron deficiency after surgery.
Dr. Thomas Inge, lead author of the study and surgical director at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said that the new findings may give parents that contemplate surgery a ‘little more peace of mind’ to learn that the procedure is safe for their children and it brings real health benefits.
Researchers disclosed that the health benefits observed in teens were even more significant than those observed in obese adults after they underwent bariatric surgery. For instance, in adults high blood pressure was reduced by 38 percent after surgery, while in teens it dropped by 74 percent.
The findings, which were published Friday in The New England Journal of Medicine, are the result of the largest study on obese teens that underwent weight loss surgery to date. The research involved 242 teens aged 13 to 19 years. Their average BMI was 53, which qualifies them as clinically obese.
“They’re at the very top of the severely obese,”
noted Dr. Inge.
All volunteers underwent surgery and there was no control group. After surgery, the group was followed for three years. During that time although they lost about 27 percent of their initial weight they were still obese. Their average BMI was 38.
Yet, one piece of good news is that those diagnosed with diabetes before the surgery no longer had the disease. Additionally, 86 percent of volunteers saw their kidney function improve, 74 percent had no longer problems with high blood pressure, while 66 percent saw their cholesterol levels go back to normal.
Dr. Inge said that the reversal rate of diabetes in obese teens – a whopping 95 percent – shocked researchers. He added that that was far greater than the rate in adult patients. The teens’ body mass index (BMI) also improved. A BMI of 30 or more means that you are obese. But study participants managed to drop from a mean BMI of 53 to the 35-40 range.
Moreover, 25 percent of participants were able to drop to a non-obese BMI. However, doctors believe that results would have been even more dramatic if intervention was done earlier.
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