Should We Be Stapling Kids’ Stomachs?

Did you know that one in five American children is now obese? Not only is this fact grim in itself, but recent studies have indicated that these overweight young people are at serious risk for disease and premature death.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that people who become overweight prior to the age of 18 are more likely to have a premature death in their forties or fifties. Along the same lines, the American Medical Association has reported that those who develop obesity and type 2 diabetes in their early years have an increased risk of death before age 55.

It seems that obesity and its nasty sidekick, diabetes, have even more dire consequences when they are initiated in a person’s youth. Since these trends are like a runaway freight train in our society at this time, some experts have suggested that desperate measures might be necessary.

For example, at least three leading children’s hospitals in the U.S. have recently begun performing obesity surgeries, such as gastric bypass or stomach stapling. These invasive procedures, sometimes portrayed in the media as being miraculous cures, are allowing young people to lose large amounts of weight and regain a “normal life.”

The fast action of surgery is intended to quickly relieve kids from the serious dangers of  obesity-related conditions, such as sleep apnea or diabetes. This is especially true for teenagers, who, compared to younger children, are statistically less likely to be willing or able to make the necessary changes to lose a significant amount of weight naturally and gradually. 

However, it’s vital to note that such radical treatment options do not come without risks. Studies have shown that approximately 40 percent of people having obesity procedures develop side effects such as intestinal leakage, bowel obstruction, infections or nutritional deficiencies.

fat boy wants to eat   burger that lies on   bicepsThe surgery is not a one-time permanent fix, but rather a jump-start that requires the patient to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle from the moment of the procedure (to avoid those nasty potential side effects) and for the long term to maintain the positive effects.

Those opposing the popularization of these procedures express concerns that a “quick fix” mentality can be both dangerous and can overshadow the importance of holistic approaches like nutrition and exercise. In addition, many say that children and youth are not mature enough to undergo these life-altering procedures. 

On the other hand, those supporting obesity surgery point out that patients are able to drop an average of 37 percent of their body mass in just one year. Performing the procedures earlier rather than later prevents conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease from becoming established and more difficult to reverse.

While the benefits and risks of gastric surgery seem to present a conundrum, for the vast majority of overweight and obese people, a thorough makeover of lifestyle and dietary habits is the way to go. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound (or 100) of cure!

-Liivi Hess

Liivi is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is training to become a doula. She inspires women to find peace and personal power by taking control of health and fertility naturally. Liivi‘s passion is ancestral nutrition and primal lifestyle design. She and her partner Will live between Toronto, Canada and Queenstown, New Zealand. 



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