Teenagers who had gastric bypass surgery were more likely to show positive outcomes in their type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure than adults.
In a study featured in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the National Institutes of Health examined the potential health benefits of weight-loss surgery to teens compared to adults.
They looked at the data of 161 teens and 396 adults who received gastric bypass surgery as part of a medical program known as Teen-Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery (Teen-LABS) and its corresponding LABS program for adults.
The teens were under 19 when they took part in the program, while the adults reported of having been obese by the time they reached 18.
Clinical centers who were part of the Teen-LABS program specialize in providing surgical evaluation and management for young people who suffer from severe obesity.
Better Health Outcomes After Surgery
The NIH researchers made several observations in the participants following their gastric bypass surgery.
Weight Loss - Both the teenagers and the adults lost considerable weight following the procedure. However, the weight loss percentages between the two groups were not very much different.
The teens lost as much as 26 percent of their body weight, while the adults lost 29 percent five years after the procedure.
Type 2 diabetes - Teenagers who reported of having type 2 diabetes were 27 percent more likely than adults to have controlled blood sugar levels even without the use of medications.
The researchers found that none of the teens needed diabetes medications anymore after the surgery, compared to the 88 percent of them that did so before the procedure.
Meanwhile, 79 percent of the adults depended on medications before the weight-loss surgery. About 26 percent of them still used diabetes drugs five years later.
Blood pressure - About 57 percent of teenage participants used blood pressure medications, compared to 68 percent of the adults. These figures significantly dropped five years after the surgery, with only 11 percent of the teens and 33 percent of the adults still requiring medications.
Among the participants who had issues with blood pressure before the procedure, teenagers were 51 percent more likely compared to adults to no longer suffer from the condition or take blood pressure medications anymore.
Side Effects Of Weight Loss Surgery
Despite these positive outcomes, the researchers also found several side effects of weight-loss surgery in teens. Many of the participants required subsequent abdominal surgeries such as gallbladder removal.
Teenagers were also more susceptible to iron and vitamin D deficiencies, likely because they do not take enough supplements for vitamins and minerals following their surgery.
The researchers recorded a similar death rate between the teens and adults five years after their weight-loss procedure. These included two from the teen group who reportedly died due to overdose.
More people in the United States are dying because of drug overdose overall. In an earlier LABS study, scientists found an increased risk of alcohol and substance use disorders among adults who received bariatric surgery.
"Although there are risks associated with bariatric surgery, this study demonstrates that, for many young people, the benefits likely outweigh the risks," said Dr. Thomas Inge, a researcher from Children's Hospital Colorado and lead author of the study.
"Sufficient vitamin and mineral supplementation, along with continued medical care, can help mitigate some of these risks."
The findings of the NIH study build on previous research regarding the potential benefits, risk, and timing of bariatric surgery to help people better manage their weight.