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Bariatric surgery ‘reduces risk of premature heart disease in severely obese teens’




Bariatric surgery could halve the chance of severely obese teens developing premature heart disease or having a stroke, according to new research. The model presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2018 suggested that prior to bariatric surgery, the average risk of a severely obese teen having a heart disease event over a 30-year period was eight percent, but this dropped to just four percent one year after surgery. 

Furthermore, this decrease in risk was maintained on a yearly basis for five years following surgery. Bariatric surgery alters the body’s digestive system, either by making the stomach smaller or by shortening the intestines so less food is absorbed. Studies have shown it can result in substantial weight loss and reduction of risk factors for heart disease in adults. However, there is relatively little data about the possible benefits of the procedures in teenagers. 

The prediction model used in the study was based on research from the Framingham Heart Study and was applied to 215 participants with an average age of 17 and average body mass index of 53. Among the data measured were the blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, and weight of the participants, which were monitored prior to surgery and for five years after. Justin Ryder, PhD, study author and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis claimed the research adds to the “mountain of evidence” indicating that bariatric surgery is the most effective way to promote weight loss and limit the risk of chronic disease such as heart disease or diabetes in severely obese teenagers. 

“Teens with severe obesity are at high risk for having a premature cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack, stroke, heart failure and others by the time they are 50, which has significant implications in terms of their healthcare costs and their quality of life,” she asserted.

Childhood obesity in two to 19 year-olds in the United States is at 18.5 percent, according to the latest State of Childhood Obesity report published by the Trust for America’s Health. More than 12 million American children are obese, which increases the risk of a range of health conditions developing, including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, bone and joint disorders, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. 

In addition to surgical solutions, medication and lifestyle changes, such as a better diet and more exercise, can aid weight loss efforts. Drugs sometimes used to help patients reduce their weight to a healthier level include centrally-acting drugs such as Belviq (lorcaserin) or Adipex-P (phentermine), and peripherally-acting antiobesity products, for example Xenical (orlistat).