News 8 On Call: New policy for children with severe obesity

Health News

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – We have the answers to questions many are asking about a new American Academy of Pediatrics policy for children with severe obesity.

There are nearly 5 million children and teens in the U.S. who are severely obese. Many with related health problems including diabetes and high blood pressure.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics reviewed the literature that exists in bariatric surgery for adolescents with severe obesity and they concluded the benefits outweigh the risk,” says Dr. Ania Jastreboff who specializes in obesity medicine at Yale Medicine.

She goes on to say, “It is very difficult to achieve and maintain sustainable weight loss with lifestyle in adolescents who have severe obesity.”

Who can benefit from bariatric surgery?

Dr. Jastreboff answers, “Adolescents who have a BMI of greater than 35 with a weight related comorbidity such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension or hypolipidemia or they have a BMI of greater of 40, those adolescents should be considered for surgery. For example a BMI of 35, so if you have someone who is 5 feet 3 inches tall, if they weighed 200 pounds, then their BMI is 35.”

Why should parents and doctors consider weight loss surgery for children with severe obesity?

“If you have a body mass index that is so high already, ” she explains, “Then your pubertal development is already affected. Your body glucose levels and your insulin levels, your blood insulin levels can be markedly higher. It is important absolutely to look at this in terms of bariatric surgery.”

What are the risks?

“You can have some short term things happen,” says Dr. Jastreboff, “So for example, dehydration or nausea. You can also have some long term things occur for example vitamin deficiencies are common. The most common is iron deficiency. You can also have B12 and folic deficiency.”

Are there other options?

She stresses, ‘Of course it’s critical to have lifestyle, dietary exercise interventions. Nobody is denying that. That is critical. It is also important to consider anti-obesity pharmacol therapy and for adults we do have FDA medication, specifically for adolescents, there are two.”

The bottom line – Dr. Jastreboff says it’s critical to treat children with severe obesity to prevent the development of heart disease, fatty liver disease and certain cancers.

The hope too is with the new policy — those who qualify will get insurance coverage – which has been a major obstacle to undergoing obesity surgery.

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