The Research

In April of 2007, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in conjunction with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, launched several studies to evaluate the benefits and risks of gastric bypass or bariatric surgery in adolescents.

One study conducted at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and led by Associate Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics Dr. Thomas H. Inge, found that gastric bypass surgery or bariatric surgery helped combat obesity and reverse type 2 diabetes in the subjects.

Inge's group looked at 78 teens with type 2 diabetes. Eleven patients underwent gastric bypass surgery, while the other 67 patients received usual care for their diabetes.

Of the teens who had surgery, not only did they experience an average of 34 percent reduction in their weight, but their diabetes went into remission. Teens that did not have surgery saw an average weight loss of less than two pounds and still required diabetes medications.

Growing Numbers with Growing Waistlines

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity in adolescents is on the rise and currently affects approximately 17 percent of the adolescent population in the United States. Obesity is one of the top risk factors for diabetes, so it’s no wonder that more and more teens are finding themselves afflicted with this serious disease. But is surgery the answer? Just as for adults, gastric bypass surgery should be considered a last resort treatment for obesity and type 2 diabetes. And the following questions should be asked?

Is your teen:

  • At the end of 6 months of committed effort to lose weight conventionally through diet and exercise?
  • Unlikely to lose weight or keep it off over the long-term with nonsurgical measures?
  • Well-informed about the surgical procedure and the effects of treatment?
  • Determined to lose weight and improve their health?
  • Aware of how their life may change after the operation (adjustment to the side effects of the operation, including the need to chew food well and inability to eat large meals)?
  • Aware of the potential risk for serious complications, dietary restrictions, and occasional failures?
  • Committed to lifelong healthy eating and physical activity habits, medical follow-up, and vitamin/mineral supplementation?
  • At least 13 years of age if they’re a girl or 15 years of age if they’re a boy?

The Weight Control Information Network advises that you consult a specialized adolescent bariatric surgery center in order to get all of the facts regarding the procedure and the lifestyle changes required. Remember, the surgery doesn't remove the behavioral tendencies or environmental factors that may have led to obesity. In order to make this change permanent, you and your teenager will need to change the foods that are in the house and increase the amount of physical activity in your lives.

Whether or not you and your teen elect to go ahead with the procedure, begin working with a dietician and perhaps even a physical trainer to help improve diet and exercise habits.