Weight loss surgery for kids

Filed under: Tweens, Teens, Health & Safety: Babies, Nutrition: Health, Medical Conditions, In The News, Mealtime

Considering all we've heard about the childhood obesity epidemic, it really should come as no surprise that parents are turning to surgical procedures to help their kids lose weight. According to a 2007 study, nearly 800 U.S. kids had weight-loss surgery in 2003. Those surgeries range from gastric bypass operations to stomach banding.

While weight loss surgery for kids may not be surprising, it is rather alarming. Research has shown that one in every 200 patients dies from gastric bypass and one in every 1,000 patients dies from banding. Why would a parent subject a child to the risks associated with major surgery when perhaps all that is really needed is a better diet and more exercise?I am sure parents who do this reach their decisions after much thought and consideration, but Dante Fishell's answer to the question is telling. Her 13-year-old son Joey weighed nearly 300 pounds when he had a stomach band implanted this summer. "I'm choosing to have this done to help save his life," she said. "This surgery is almost like the magic answer." Coincidentally, Fishell herself had her own stomach band implanted on the same day as her son.

Not only are weight-loss surgeries risky, they don't always work. Patients must stick to strict eating regimes for the rest of their lives in order to maintain the weight loss. According to one study, adults who underwent weight loss surgeries regained about 30 percent of their weight within 10 years. Would children fare any better? And wouldn't a strict eating regime do the trick without surgery anyway?

To skeptics like me, one mother has something to say. "It's real easy for people to pass judgment when they haven't walked in our shoes, when they haven't seen their child so upset and trying so hard not to eat," says mom Melanie Gorman, whose daughter underwent stomach banding. "If I would have thought there was any danger to (Shelby), I wouldn't have done it."

She's right, of course. I don't know what it is like to see my child suffer because of her weight. But as much as I sympathize with these children and their parents, I have a hard time seeing surgery as the answer. In addition to the risks, weight-loss surgery doesn't address the issues that resulted in the obesity in the first place. Wouldn't a child be better served by focusing on that rather than a quick fix? Do you think weight-loss surgery is ever a good idea for a child?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.