More teens turn to weight loss surgery



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Posted on October 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Updated Saturday, Oct 16 at 2:57 PM

It used to be Allison Parker couldn't keep up with her dog Jack.

"I Was 234 pounds. I was embarrassed to just walk out the door," she said

Parker had tried lots of diets.

"I did the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet. I did fasting, I tried Slim Fast bars," she said.

At just 16 she was on the verge of type 2 diabetes, and on medications for sleep apnea, acid reflux, and depression.

"I knew it wasn't because I was born that way. I made myself that way," she said.

She turned to weight loss surgery at 17. It's something more and more teens are trying.

In one study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers followed 25 teens who went through a lifestyle fitness program, and 25 who had gastric banding weight loss surgery. Two years later, 12 percent of teens in the lifestyle group had lost more than half their excess body weight. 84 percent of the kids in the surgery group did the same.

Dr. Robert Sawin, surgeon in chief at Seattle Children's says weight loss surgery may be appropriate for a small group of teens. But there's more to the story of the kids in the study.

"The downside is that almost a third of the kids required a re-operation and that's just in a two year follow up period," he said.

Scarring, and slipping of the lap band are two complications. There could be another consequence of surgery. University of California San Francisco researchers just reported that in a review of the literature they found 6 cases of neural tube and spinal birth defects in infants born to women who had undergone gastric bypass surgery.

"This may be an early sign of the nutritional problems that some of these treatments may provoke," said Dr. Sawin.

Another study showed the majority of teens who had the surgery didn't keep up with the nutritional supplements they needed to stay healthy.

Parker, who dropped 60 pounds and all her meds, felt she made a good choice.

"I might have been young but I had adults behind me to help me and steer me in the right direction," she said.