Gastric bypass, a procedure by which the stomach is stapled into the size of an egg, is becoming more and more popular for children. An alternate procedure using a band is also available. Regardless of the procedure used, this is a terrible idea. No one could possibly know the consequences this surgery will have on the developing digestive tracts of young adults.
There is no doubt that there is an obesity problem in this country and that children are becoming heavier and heavier. Adult diseases and related problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are all on the rise in children. In fact, 1 in 5 teens now has high cholesterol. According to The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) comparing 1976-1980 and 200-2003, the prevalence of obesity has increased: for children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 12.4%; for those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 17.0%; and for those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5.0% to 17.6%.
The numbers are real and the problems are real, but we did not get here overnight and it certainly wasn’t a deficiency in gastric bypass surgeries that led our youth to be overweight. The problem is the availability of cheap, nutrient empty food and the choices these children are being taught to make. Combine this with the ever increasing inactivity in this country and it is a recipe for disaster. Research has highlighted that kids younger than 8 spend an average of 2.5 hours watching TV or playing video games, and kids 8 and above spend 4.5 hours slumped before a TV or wriggling a joystick of some kind! Children who watch more than 4 hours a day are more likely to be overweight compared with those who watch 2 hours or less. Also consider that some studies show that kids get 10% of their calories from fast food alone! This doesn’t take into account the terrible snacks and meals they are being fed by their parents. This also poses a problem for the health care system down the road as well. Studies show that 80% of overweight children go on to be overweight adults.
Gastric bypass, however, is not the answer. For one, getting a bypass done keeps you from absorbing enough food. While this lowers the caloric intake of the individual, it also means you cannot absorb enough vitamins and nutrients. Over time, this may lead to deficiencies of crucial nutrients and eventually lead to problems as serious as cancer. It may not develop immediately, but does anyone know how the body reacts to sub par levels of a variety of antioxidants over, say 40 years? I think not. Secondly, this has not been proven to be any more effective then appropriate dietary advice. These children need to be taught how to eat, not given a quick fix because they will have a lifetime ahead of them to eat incorrectly if this is the case.
The fix for fat in this country is a massive educational program. It needs to be on the scale of the anti-smoking campaign or the D.A.R.E campaign to eliminate drugs. It cannot be taught by physicians and dieticians who continue to teach the low fat method of dieting. Research and physiology says that is the least effective way to lose weight and, most importantly, get healthy. They have been preaching low fat, low fat and more low fat for 60 years! And we are fatter than ever! They still recommend your largest servings be of grains. This is so wrong for human physiology it’s unbelievable.
What kids need to do is totally eliminate processed foods from their diet. This means chips, pasta, soda, candy and breads to name a few. Sure they can have it once in a while, but they should be a treat not a staple. What they should be eating is protein, vegetables and fruits and healthy fats. This would solve the obesity problem in this country OVER NIGHT! It must be taught this way, however. Deviations from this would result in failure and put us right back in the position we’re in.
Radical, dangerous and unnecessary surgery for children is a bad idea. It becomes even worse when it is for a problem that can be fixed conservatively. I am going to leave you with this thought. Gastric bypass may make you thin, but it does not make you healthy. The only way to do that is diet and exercise.