Number of Children Undergoing Weight Loss Surgeries Increased Considerably

Overweight Children (Photo: iStock)

Weight loss surgeries are increasingly common among American teenagers and children, according to a new study.

Published in the JAMA Pediatrics journal, the research letter revealed that metabolic and bariatric surgeries among adolescents aged 10-19 rose by nearly 20 percent between 2020 and 2021.

This increase coincides with a rise in severe obesity rates within this age group. Severe obesity is identified as the fastest-growing subcategory of obesity in the U.S. pediatric population, with rates increasing from 5.6 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent in 2018.

The letter indicates that this rise equates to approximately 4.8 million youths affected by severe obesity.

Researchers highlighted that metabolic and bariatric surgery is a “safe and effective treatment” for severe obesity.

Overweight Children (Photo: iStock)

They referenced a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued last year, advocating for increased access to these surgeries for pediatric patients when medically necessary.

The study found that both adults and youths underwent more weight loss surgeries in 2021 than in 2020. Specifically, 1,349 youths had metabolic and bariatric surgeries in 2021, up from 1,235 in 2020.

Among adults, weight loss surgeries rose by about 24 percent from 2020 to 2021, increasing from 167,119 to 207,834.

“The AAP has highlighted the need to educate pediatricians about the benefits of MBS for qualified patients,” the letter states.

“Historically, [metabolic and bariatric surgery] has been underused in youths due to barriers, including low referral rates, limited access, and poor insurance coverage.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of obesity among U.S. children aged 2 to 19 years from 2017 to 2020 was approximately 19.7 percent, affecting about 14.7 million children and adolescents.

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