December 1, 2023

Weight loss surgery for a 13-year-old. It may seem extreme but it is part of a new set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

For the first time in 15 years, doctors are urged to take a more prominent role in the growing obesity epidemic. 

It’s an eye-opener for most parents. 

Fifteen million children in the United States, on a scale with weight, are considered obese, sometimes carrying that burden into their adult life. 

“Some studies have actually shown that by the time a child is six, can actually be a determining factor for what their future looks like,” said Dr. Jeremy Daigle, pediatrician and director of the Healthy Active Living Program at Advocate Medical. “So, when it comes to them being six, if they are obese or overweight at that age, that kind of gives a very high likelihood that they may be obese or overweight as an adult.” 

But it’s not just the weight physicians are concerned about. Young children are being diagnosed with adult diseases. 

“One thing we definitely know with these children, we’ve seen like diabetes and pre-diabetes earlier and cholesterol issues, so while it may seem like body fat to parents, it definitely is something that needs to be addressed and honestly, the earlier, the better,” Daigle said.

So, no more waiting for the adult doctor when a child turns 18. Pediatricians are now urged to consider prescribing weight loss medications at age 12 and suggesting bariatric surgery by 13 to shrink the stomach and limit the amount of food a person can comfortably consume.

Physicians want to make sure pediatrics is preventative. 

“What we are trying to do is prevent those long-term complications like diabetes, like high blood pressure,” Daigle said. “So when we are giving these weight loss medications and the surgery for these families, it is really for us to make sure they don’t have these problems long-term.”

In the short term, before drastic measures are taken, doctors say parents should watch and teach. 

“I think it’s profound to show the family the growth charts, which I frequently do, to make sure they say, ‘hey, something happened here,’” Daigle said. “So, it’s really just about making those changes and controlling what we can control, promoting activity, making sure they’re getting good sleep, making sure they are not eating too much fast food or consuming sugary drinks.” 

Doctors say modeling good behavior is the first step to teaching it. 

They advise starting slowly, adding that when someone cuts out too much, too fast, you set yourself up for failure. The pandemic fed destructive behaviors of inactivity and unhealthy eating, so parents should focus on a healthy future for themselves and their children.


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