Bariatric Weight-Loss for Children

Weight loss surgery on the rise for obese children.
Photo by maophotostocker @ Freepik


Bariatric weight-loss surgery for children?!?

As I was sitting this morning and enjoying a cup of coffee while watching the news, a sad story they were reporting on really caught my attention. The topic of this news story was how bariatric weight-loss surgeries for adolescents has been on the increase over the last few years.

My friends, the fact that there are enough children in America who need weight-loss surgery to rate becoming a news story in itself is a disturbing trend. Our children are our future – and if this trend continues, the future of costs of health care is going to become far more of a burden than it is today. Sadly, what we are facing is entirely preventable on our part as parents, grandparents, and other adults who are integral parts of our children’s lives.  

A new research letter, published in JAMA Pediatrics journal, said that metabolic and bariatric surgeries among adolescents ages 10-19 jumped by nearly 20 percent between 2020 and 2021 as severe obesity rates among the age group also increased. The research also found that severe obesity is the fastest-growing subcategory of obesity in the United States pediatric population, with a rising rate from 5.6 percent in 2015 to 6.5 percent in 2018.  (1)

This increase in severe obesity rates affects about 4.8 million youths!

This increase of severe obesity in our children should be a disturbing trend to anyone who cares about the future of our nation’s children. Sadly, because many, if not most children who are affected by severe obesity live in households where obesity is not seen as a problem. This trend cannot continue, but as long as parents do not take control of their own nutritional habits, these obese children are facing bleak futures of poor health that is entirely preventable.

 Researchers have noted that metabolic and bariatric surgery is a “safe and effective treatment” for severe obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement last year calling for increased pediatric access to these surgeries when it is medically needed.

Yes, bariatric surgery can be a safe and effective treatment for some people. However, what is being left out the equation is how these surgeries affect those who receive it afterwards.

The most common bariatric post-surgery risks and side effects include:

Acid reflux

Anesthesia-related risks

Chronic nausea and vomiting

Dilation of esophagus

Inability to eat certain foods


Obstruction of stomach

Weight gain or failure to lose weight

If your child is obese enough to require bariatric surgery, you had best consider those possibilities listed above.

Researchers have found that more children and teenagers received weight loss surgeries in 2021 than in 2020. In 2021, 1,349 youths completed metabolic and bariatric surgeries, compared to 1,235 in 2020, according to the study.

But there is even more that you had best consider before you put your child through bariatric surgery.

Long term risks of bariatric surgery include:

Dumping syndrome, a condition that can lead to symptoms like nausea and dizziness.

Dumping syndrome is as bad as it sounds. For example, when you consume foods that contain added sugars after bariatric surgery, the contents of your bowels just dump right on out of you. When you have dumping syndrome, you had best remain close to your bathroom and have a good supply of toilet paper on hand – you are going to need it.

Low blood sugar.

Low blood sugar is not good anymore than high blood sugar. The signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia, or blood sugar levels which have become too low include:

Looking pale,     shakiness,     sweating,     headache,      hunger or nausea,     an irregular or fast heartbeat,     fatigue,     irritability or anxiety,     difficulty concentrating,     dizziness or lightheadedness,     tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue or cheek.

As hypoglycemia worsens, signs and symptoms can include:

Confusion,     unusual behavior or both,     such as the inability to complete routine tasks,

loss of coordination,     slurred speech,     blurry vision or tunnel vision

and nightmares when asleep.

Severe hypoglycemia may cause:

Unresponsiveness (loss of consciousness) or seizures, or death.

Malnutrition, vomiting, ulcers, bowel obstruction ,and hernias are other long term risks of bariatric weight-loss surgery! (2)

But wait, there is more!

Risks and side effects vary by bariatric weight-loss procedure. The following list is not all-inclusive, but briefly outlines risks of gastric bypass and gastric sleeve:

Risks of Gastric Bypass:

  • Breakage
  • Dumping syndrome
  • Gallstones (risk increases with rapid or
    substantial weight loss)
  • Hernia
  • Internal bleeding or profuse bleeding of the
    surgical wound
  • Leakage
  • Perforation of stomach or intestines
  • Pouch/anastomotic obstruction or bowel obstruction
  • Protein or calorie malnutrition
  • Pulmonary and/or cardiac problems
  • Skin separation
  • Spleen or other organ injury
  • Stomach or intestine ulceration
  • Stricture
  • Vitamin or iron deficiency

Risks of Gastric Sleeve:

  • Blood clots
  • Gallstones (risk increases with rapid or
    substantial weight loss)
  • Hernia
  • Internal bleeding or profuse bleeding of the
    surgical wound
  • Leakage
  • Perforation of stomach or intestines
  • Skin separation
  • Stricture
  • Vitamin or iron deficiency

In light of the fact that obesity is preventable, and can also be undone through diet and exercise as approved by your pediatrician, you should ask yourself if you want to put your child through all of these risk factors. But, for weight-loss to be healthy and maintainable, the entire family will require a change of nutritional lifestyle. It is a huge act of selfishness and self indulgence should you as a parent put your child through all of this and you continue to feed your own obesity.

This article will ruffle the feathers of some people, as similar articles we have written in the past. I can’t even begin to count how many times over the years that Brenda Sue and myself have been told that obesity is genetic and cannot be helped.

Yes, some people are genetically more prone to become obese than others. Some people grow taller than others, and others are smarter. But even if you and your children are genetically prone to storing more body fat than others, it does not mean that you have to be fat. Obesity is preventable, and what some believe to be genetics causing their obesity is actually familial.

What I mean by obesity often being familial is if you are obese, the odds are that one or both of your parents are also obese.  Your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins might be obese too. However, while the genetics might be the same across the board, it is also true that the nutritional habits have also been poor from generation to generation. Brenda Sue wrote an excellent article about this same topic a while back.

You can read it at this link: Genetics and Habits in Obesity.

Next time you have a large gathering of family getting together for a holiday feast, take time to look at the difference in how your fat family members fill their plates as opposed to those who are not fat. That will tell you a lot about your family genetics when it comes to obesity. Just because your nutritional habits are the same within your family, it’s quite more often than not that it is your habits rather than your genetics causing family wide obesity.

Love your children and break the generational curse of poor nutritional habits before they need bariatric surgery for weight-loss. 


(1) JAMA Pediatrics 

(2)  Mayo Clinic

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