Alabama Bariatrics & Minimally Invasive Surgery

Bariatric Diet Orbera Gastric Band Sleeve Gastrectomy Gastric Bypass

W. Jay Suggs, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Huntsville & Decatur
Phone: (256) 274-4523
Fax: (256) 203-8791

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Contact Us

W. Jay Suggs, MD, FACS, FASMBS
Huntsville & Decatur
Phone: (256) 274-4523
Fax: (256) 203-8791
EMail: drsuggs@alabariatrics.com

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Alabama Weight Loss Surgery and Children

Weight loss surgery as a response to obesity is still a somewhat new concept in Alabama. In fact, there is already a stigma surrounding weight loss surgery in the United States. In Alabama weight loss surgery is either cosmetic or a 'short-cut'. Still, no matter how you look at it, it is still an uncomfortable topic. It is the unfortunate result of being a combination of two taboo conversational topics: Health and Weight.

Another uncomfortable topic that has been introduced in the world of weight loss surgery is children. There is a fine line between declaring what is or isn't good for a child. Especially when that advice comes from a stranger. Parents are naturally protective of their children. So, it makes sense that they are wanting to look out for their child's health. 

But where is the line between public health, medical research, and parenting? When is it time for doctors to recommend a treatment that parents of patients aren't uncomfortable with? The subject matter gets a little murky, and sometimes even the best of intentions from both sides go awry. The best we can do is examine the data that we do have and reach closer to the conclusion beneficial for everyone. 

Child Obesity Rate

In 2014, a  scientific study that was funded by Auburn University was conducted in Alabama's Black Belt.  According to researchers," Approximately 42.1% of surveyed children were overweight or obese, much higher than the national average, 30.6%." This is unsurprising, given that the "Black Belt" of Alabama is considered to be the community with the highest poverty rate in the entire state. They concluded that " Policymakers and planners need to improve community food environments of low‐income minority communities. Parents and schools should pay more attention to reduce the negative impacts of food environments on children."

But is food education enough to handle all the problems that come with childhood obesity?

Behavioral Studies and Food Education for Children

First Lady Michelle Obama started a campaign based on the prevention of childhood obesity. Her program, "Let's Move", was a program that emphasized food and exercise education, as well as, food availability for lower-income families. 

The results were mixed

According to Time Magazine, "While childhood obesity among children between two and five years old dropped 3.7% from 2010 to 2012, the rate increased 2.1% for children 12-19 during the same period. The overall childhood obesity rate, meanwhile, remained at a constant 16.9% from 2008 through 2012."

The conclusion that came from this study was that younger children who received food education from ages 2-5 were much more likely to retain and carry good eating habits through grade school. Older Children and Teenagers were less likely to change their habits.

This is consistent with what we know about learning and human development.  Younger children are more adaptive when it comes to learning new habits. Especially in comparison to older adults, who still have a harder time learning a new skill.

It also doesn't help that children in onset, early, or late adolescence are already in the mindset of trying to find their own identity through experimentation and rebellion

So, if the obesity turns into an outright emergency situation and food education isn't enough, what can be done? If a doctor in the Alabama area recommends weight loss surgery, wouldn't that be too drastic?

The Effects of Severe Obesity in Children

No matter what age, if you are going through severe obesity, it will take a toll on your health. According to the American Heart Association as of 2013, "Early cardiac abnormalities have also been demonstrated in severe pediatric obesity. Compared with normal-weight control subjects, adolescents with severe obesity had greater left ventricular mass and reduced systolic and early diastolic tissue Doppler imaging velocities". In plain English, children are getting more heart problems. What's more, they are at greater risk for things like metabolic diseases, psychological issues, sleep apnea, and eating disorders. The idea of a child or teenager going through a heart attack or depression is already in danger.

What makes it worse is the added stigma that goes along with the way we treat people who have obesity.  On average people think that obesity is a byproduct of a lack of will power and attribute it to laziness. Children, who are still developing their brains, can wind up severely obese for the same complicated reasons as adults do. Things like medication, genetic disorders, and poverty are all factors.

Even a doctor who specializes in weight loss surgery, "While it is tempting to assign blame to any combination of these and other seemingly logical factors, no set of environmental or behavioral variables has been clearly linked to the development of severe obesity. In fact, as a pediatric surgeon who specializes in the field of surgical weight loss for teens, I can state with total certainty that these factors rarely, if ever, come into play. Particularly the notion that adolescent obesity is the result of “bad parenting.”

If something like weight loss surgery can reverse the adult conditions that go along with obesity, what parent wouldn't do what they could to help them?

 

The Nature of Weight Loss Surgery Treatments for Children

Weight loss surgery, in spite of its reputation, isn't easy or quick. In fact, standard procedure in medical care often dictates analysis first as well as a baseline before going with more aggressive treatment. 

"When a child is first examined by his or her pediatrician or primary care doctor, you can expect a thorough evaluation detailing the child’s food intake, physical activity level, blood work and more. Once you, your child and their healthcare professional have gathered this information, you can then begin to discuss treatment options. While treatments such as behavioral and lifestyle modifications may work for the majority of children, there are some children that require more aggressive treatment."

There are even pediatric centers that specifically deal with the treatment of children going through extreme obesity.  The most important thing they can do is inform both the parents and the child that they are on their side.

So if parents and children are willing to openly communicate with specialists and follow directions, Alabama weight loss surgery can give a child better long term health. And isn't that more important than parental  or medical pride?