Fast food is making us fat

According to the American Academy Of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, obesity in teens in the United States has skyrocketed over the last couple years. As of 2016, there were approximately 12.7 million children and adolescents that were obese in the United States. Unless these kids incorporate exercise and a healthier diet, they’re more likely to become overweight adults.  One teen has shaken up the news headlines – instead of working off the pounds he went under the knife.

The Teen

Nineteen-year-old, Nikhil Gangarams’, recent journey undergoing bariatric surgery was shared on Today Online last week. While the surgery isn’t commonly performed on teens, it has been proven to work as a long-term solution to weight-loss and can help in other areas of your health. It can help calm type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and more.

“Patients generally lose 50 to 60 percent of their excess weight within a year of surgery,” said Dr. Ganesh Ramalingam of G & L Surgical at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, who operated on Nikhil told Today Online.  Dr. Ramalingam added that Nikhil is among his youngest patients to have undergone weight-loss surgery.

Dr. Melvin Look, director of PanAsia Surgery and a consultant surgeon in gastrointestinal, laparoscopic and obesity surgery, has seen a handful of patients under 21, the youngest of whom was 16 according to Today Online.

To qualify for bariatric surgery, pediatric patients under 18 must fulfil a list of criteria, such as having a BMI above 40 and with other significant severe medical problems like diabetes, or a BMI of at least 50 without related medical conditions, according to the Ministry of Health’s Clinical Practice Guidelines (2016).

The Procedure

There are four different kinds of Bariatric Surgery; Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy, Adjustable Gastric Band and Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch. The two most commonly used are  Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass, and Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy—both of these procedures make the stomach smaller.

Following the surgery, there is a one to six week recovery period. Patients find that they can lose anywhere from 25% to 90% of excess weight, depending on the kind of procedure. An entirely new diet will need to be followed, including no solid food at first. This is no cosmetic fix, people will have to exercise and put in work following their recovery period. Many patients find a downside is that they have sagging skin because of their rapid weight loss.

Is This A Real Option For Teens?

Yes, this a real option for teens—and it seems to be on the rise.  Nikhil Gangaram isn’t the first teen to undergo bariatric surgery, 18-year-old Jewel Francis-Aburime had the procedure done in April of last year, her story was covered by VOX. Her journey following the surgery wasn’t as successful off the bat at Gangaram’s. It is actually not uncommon at all, 51 adolescents had the surgery in 1997 – that number ballooned to more than 1,600 in 2009.

A study published in Pediatrics followed teens for three years following their stomach reduction surgery. Not only did it find that teens had rapidly lost weight, but they had also improved their heart health.

“The potential impact of such risk reduction translates into a reduced likelihood of developing significant heart disease later in life, including atherosclerosis, heart failure and stroke,” study author Marc Michalsky, surgical director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told National Public Radio in an email. “This study serves to reinforce the benefits of bariatric surgery as a safe and effective treatment strategy that should be considered sooner rather than later.”

How To Combat Obesity

Many factors can account towards obesity including genetic, biological, behavioural and even cultural factors. Obesity in childhood can be correlated to poor eating habits, overeating, lack of exercise, family history, medications, stress, depression. There are risks that come with obesity including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, breathing problems, sleeping problems, joint pain and emotional issues. Teens can face bullying which can lead to a low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

Not all teens require surgery, they need management and support. Here are some ways that you can help your overweight teen manage their weight:

  • Weight management program
  • Eat slower and on a routine
  • Meal plan healthy foods
  • A lower calorie intake
  • Portion control
  • Be more active
  • Do not use food as a reward
  • Don’t snack
  • Join a support group or community

Obesity can become a lifelong battle. By implementing a new lifestyle you may be able to combat that battle early on for your teen. If your teen is struggling to lose weight, schedule a conversation with your family doctor. They may be able to provide other tips for you.