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Youth Obesity Thick Enough to Cut With a Knife

If kids keep eating treats such as deep-fried Twinkies, they very well may end up going where people usually don’t and shouldn’t go until they’re adults (if at all): the operating table.

A report in the November 2002 issue of Pediatrics says that, because of the staggering level of obesity among American youths, both parents and doctors of obese adolescents are increasingly entertaining the notion of subjecting them to gastric bypass surgery to regain control of their weight and health. Gastric bypass involves stitching the upper portion of the stomach closed to create a much smaller pocket to which the intestine is redirected. This procedure facilitates weight loss by reducing stomach capacity and nutrient absorption. It decreases the amount of food that one needs to feel full.

Some researchers feel that, unfortunately, the surgery may interfere with younger bodies’ use of calcium to build bone when they need the mineral most. Malnutrition and gallstones are other possible consequences.

Timothy Sentongo, MD, gastrointestinal specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, doubts the wisdom of taking such an extreme measure at such a young age. “People change their habits. Doing something in the first 20 years that can affect you for the next 50 years…ethically, it’s very heard to justify that,” he says.

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