Bariatric surgery has lasting health benefits for teens
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that bariatric surgery can drastically reduce weight-related health problems in teens. The study is the first report from the Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) study that collects longitudinal, prospective, clinical and laboratory data on teenagers undergoing bariatric surgery at five centres in the United States. It followed participants for 3 years post-surgery and concluded that surgery has a lasting effect, and significant impact on health, for those aged 12-19. The researchers studied data from 228 participants with severe obesity and found that, after surgery, 66% of patients no longer had unhealthy levels of fat in their blood; 75% of them reduced their blood pressure to normal; and, perhaps most impressively, type 2 diabetes disappeared in 90% of the patients who had it.
Whilst many of the patients found it difficult to keep the weight off, it was particularly encouraging to see that the complications that can arise from being obese were reduced. However, the authors did point out that the benefits must be viewed in the context of the risks of micronutrient deficiencies, and the need for further abdominal procedures in some patients. As there are not many effective treatments for obesity in teenagers, bariatric surgery, although controversial, may be a safe and effective solution. The researchers are hoping to continue the study in order to fully assess the lasting effects of bariatric surgery on teens.