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Washington Post Features

January 24, 2013

Is weight-loss surgery the right answer for overweight teenagers?

Some researchers say teens suffer lasting damage from being severely obese

Over the last few years, there has been extensive talk about the obesity problem here in the United States, particularly childhood obesity, and there’s also been a good amount of dialogue on what children should do to live more healthfully.

It’s been widely reported that childhood obesity is linked to a host of serious illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, so a large part of the national dialogue has also been about what kids and parents should do to eat better and get more exerceise.

But what should parents do when eating right and exercising aren't  enough, and the obesity problem goes from something that can be self-managed to something that’s out of control?

Although a recent study found a majority of parents oppose bariatric weight-loss surgery -- also called gastric bypass -- for their obese  teens, a group of researchers say the procedure can be a big help to young patients.

Researchers found that weight-loss surgery improved blood flow among 60 percent of teens who underwent the procedure, and also decreased their heart size, which in many cases had become enlarged because of obesity.

These results were determined after a research team from Nationwide Children’s Hospital conducted cardiac MRI tests on teen patients, both before and after they underwent weight loss surgery, a procedure that's not typically done on teens today.

Teen lost 100 pounds

To find out just how weight loss surgery may impact the life of a teenager, we spoke to 21-year old Kelley Allen, from New Concord, Ohio, who had bariatric surgery when she was 17 years of age.

After losing 100 pounds since the surgery, she says the changes in her life have been pretty tremendous.

“Things have changed for me in many ways since surgery, not just physically but mentally," she said in an interview with ConsumerAffairs.

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