Study Finds Weight Loss Surgery Helps Teens Keep Pounds Off

A teen girl celebrates her new path to whole-person health.
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When it comes to losing weight, medical science confirms what many of us learned from painful experience: It’s hard, really hard, for people who are overweight to shed the pounds.

Weight loss surgery may feel like a drastic solution. But studies have found it can give people the jumpstart they need to keep the weight off. Surgery generally works by helping you feel full more quickly.

Adults aren’t the only ones who struggle with their weight. Teenagers face the same challenges.

Researchers wondered if weight loss surgery for teens works like it does for adults, and a group of experts set out to find the answer to that question.

A study published May 16 in The New England Journal of Medicine brings optimistic news for teens considering weight loss surgery.

Researchers tracked both teens and adults for five years after their weight loss surgery. They found the teens not only lost weight (in similar amounts as adults) but were actually more likely than adults to see improvements in diabetes and high blood pressure.

This is especially important because these conditions tend to damage your health over years and even decades. Reversing weight-related health problems in teens can have a particularly large effect on their lifetime health.

But before weight loss surgery can provide an answer, you should consider some questions. Weight loss surgery is a major commitment, so it’s critical to learn whether you’re the right fit.

Surgery can give you a head start in your health journey, but it’s up to you to make lifestyle changes afterward. We use a team approach to give our patients the support they need, both before and after the operation, to keep the weight off.

What Is Weight Loss Surgery?

Most weight loss surgeries work by reducing the size of the stomach or removing a part of it. Options at AdventHealth include:

  • Duodenal Switch: Removes most of the stomach and changes your small intestine to reduce how much fat it can absorb
  • Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Band: Implants an adjustable band around the top of your stomach to reduce its capacity
  • Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass: Reduces your stomach’s size while limiting how many calories your body absorbs
  • Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy: Removes about three-fourths of your stomach

When we perform these surgeries our experts use minimally invasive techniques, called “laparoscopy.” The use of smaller cuts help you heal faster, have less scarring and live your best life faster.

Do You Qualify for Weight Loss Surgery?

People who are considering weight loss surgery have generally tried unsuccessfully to lose weight. Attempting other methods, like starting a healthy eating plan, is usually a requirement for weight loss surgery.

Qualifications for weight loss surgery aren’t the same everywhere, but in general one of the following is true for people who are candidates for surgery:

  • A body-mass index (BMI) of 40 or above (or 100 pounds overweight).
  • A BMI of 35 or higher with one or more weight-related health problems, like high blood pressure, heart diseases or diabetes.

Patients in The New England Journal of Medicine study had an average BMI of 50.

Weight loss surgery also involves a commitment to make lifestyle changes afterward. A person who gets this surgery will feel “full” with less food, but frequent snacking can still bring the weight back.

For Weight Loss, Sooner Is Better

Like other long-term conditions, the damage from carrying too much weight adds up over time. Related conditions like diabetes can take years to develop, which gives patients time to reverse the problems with weight gain.

Teens have their whole life ahead of them, so surgery provides them with the greatest benefit.

In the study, teens weighed 324 pounds on average when they had the surgery and 244 pounds five years later. Nearly nine in 10 of the teens saw their diabetes go away or become less serious.

Find Your Lifelong Support System

People who’ve tried to lose weight know about the mental and emotional hurdles they must overcome. Our behavioral health experts are experienced at helping their patients surmount these obstacles.

They are just one part of a team that looks after your body, mind and spirit, including experts who:

  • Care Coordinators: Help schedule your appointments and stay connected with your team
  • Chaplains: Provide spiritual guidance and keep the faith
  • Exercise Physiologists: Help you find activities you enjoy enough to keep doing
  • Expert Surgeons:Offer the most advanced and minimally invasive procedures
  • Nutritionists: Help you develop an eating plan and empower you to support it through shopping, cooking and eating out
  • Physicians: Help build a medical weight-loss program for you
    Psychologists: Help you overcome mental and emotional challenges
  • Social Workers: Help you manage your insurance and other obstacles
  • Specially Trained Bariatric Nurses: Keep your spirits bright and your health on track

Like you, this team is focused on more than a number on a scale. They’re experienced at supporting people through surgery and helping them make a plan to eat right and stay active that fits in their life.

To set up a consultation at to learn more about options for you or your teen, visit our website.

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