Should medicine or surgery be used to help obese children lose weight?

(WXYZ) – Childhood obesity has been increasing at alarming rates. According to a 2021 CDC report, nearly 20% of children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese, and about 6% are severely obese.

In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing updated guidelines for treating childhood obesity

It’s a far-reaching update, but one aspect is fueling controversy — drugs and permanent weight-loss surgery for kids through middle school.

Oakland County native Maeve Everett turned her into a Tik-Tok star on her weight-loss journey.

“I posted a video on Tik Tok less than a year ago today and it blew up overnight,” Everett said.
25 million likes collected.

“What brought you to this journey?” I asked.

“I think just the motivation to be healthy and actually feel better,” she said.

Maeve says weight has been a struggle for as long as she can remember. During the COVID-19 lockdown, she focused on eating better and moving more.

“The most important thing for your health is what you put into your body, which is food. No matter how hard you exercise, you can’t overwork a bad diet,” she said.

According to the CDC, nearly 15 million American children are obese. In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued new guidelines for the first time in more than a decade.

dr Zeena Al-Rufaie is a pediatrician at Shelby Pediatrics in Shelby Township and an obesity medicine specialist. She says the guidelines focus primarily on lifestyle management, but when that fails, suggests the use of medication and pediatric weight-loss surgery for children through middle school and beyond.

She said they often have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.

“We want to try to work with the families earlier and try to prevent these things,” Al-Rufaie said.

But the use of drugs or long-term operations on children elicit sharp reactions. Some say the guidelines are “bark up the wrong tree”. Others say, “These recommendations set me on fire … I worry that the new focus will lead to eating disorders.”

dr Jaime Taylor is the Director of Adolescent Medicine at Beaumont Children’s. She says she’s seen unhealthy patients at “ideal weight” and healthy patients with larger bodies. She is concerned about making lasting changes to developing children.

“Especially those around the age of 12 and 13, many of them haven’t completed the puberty process,” Taylor said.

She says weight-loss surgery can change the way children get the nutrients they need to grow and that using weight-loss medication is a long-term commitment. According to clinical ethicist Abraham Brummett, there are sensitive ethical issues that must be resolved by the patient, provider and guardian.

“Ultimately, it is the parents who will have the legal authority to authorize these types of invasive procedures,” Brummett said.

All of the health experts in this story largely believe that using medication or surgery to lose weight is only to offset the negative long-term complications of obesity.

They say lifestyle choices like Maeve’s are always the first step to weight management.

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