A recent study has shown that adolescent and teenage patients who had weight loss surgery had a higher likelihood of having a positive outcome compared with older patients. When examined three years after their surgery, 95 percent of individuals in the teenage group who had type 2 diabetes prior to surgery experienced a reversal of the disease. This was from an average weight loss of 90 pounds, which constitutes a 27 percent reduction in the average starting weight of the patients. This data is particularly promising when compared to the rate of diabetes remission for adult patients who undergo bariatric surgery. While the remission rate varies across numerous studies, most put the average rate of type 2 diabetes remission for adult bariatric patients at anywhere from 50 to 70 percent.
For various reasons, teenagers are often advised to wait to have bariatric surgery for several reasons. The first of which is that bariatric surgery is, for the most part, only meant for patients who have been unable to lose weight through conventional methods. Because younger people often have not been struggling with their weight for as long as many obese adults, they may not have had the time to know for sure that diet and exercise alone won’t work for them. However, many of the youngest patients who have bariatric surgery are those with genetic or hormonal conditions that lead to excess eating or rapid weight gain. For these cases, willpower has nothing to do with the weight gain, so these types of concerns may not be particularly relevant.
The second reason why some doctors might advise against young patients having weight loss surgery is that they may not be sure how the digestive change will affect bodies that are still growing and developing. Yet, with this new study, along with various other adolescent bariatric surgery studies that have come out in the past several years, it is becoming more and more clear that weight loss surgery is still safe, and often even more effective, in younger patients. While these results are very promising, it is still extremely important that all patients carefully weigh the decision to have bariatric surgery.