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New obesity treatment guidelines for teens and children released

New guidelines suggest doctors rely less on BMI when diagnosing obesity
Posted at 3:07 PM, Jan 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-09 17:26:51-05

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, new obesity treatment guidelines for teens and children. It’s the first time in 15 years that the American Academy of Pediatrics has updated these recommendations – which now include medication and surgery.

One of the reasons why these changes were made is because obesity rates in children and teens have basically tripled since the 1980s. There are now 14.4 million children and teens living with obesity. Another reason is that obesity is a chronic and very complex condition. And the American Academy of Pediatrics wants the public to know that childhood obesity is not a lifestyle problem. And it’s not a simple problem to fix. But rather obesity is a disease with genetic, social, and environmental factors.

So here’s what recommendations have changed. The group used to recommend a “watchful waiting” approach. Meaning let’s see if the child or teen outgrows or overcomes obesity on their own as they mature. But waiting only worsens the problem.

So now the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends intervening sooner rather than later. The first-line approach is behavior therapy and lifestyle treatment not just for the child but for the entire family. This includes not just nutrition support and increased activity but also looking at mental health, environment, and social inequities. Also, for the very first time, the recommendations allow approved weight loss medications for children 12 and older. And teens with severe obesity can now discuss and be evaluated for weight-loss surgery.

Research has found that hormones made in the gut play a role in how a person's body uses and stores energy. And that’s where these new drugs come in. They target these hormones and help people to feel full faster.

There are four approved drugs for adolescents aged 12 and up. They are Orlistat, Saxenda, Qsymia and Wegovy. Clinical trial results for the drug Wegovy found this treatment cut body mass index by about 16% when combined with healthy eating habits and exercise.

As for health issues due to obesity, children carrying excess weight are at higher risk for asthma, bone and joint problems, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease, and depression. These can affect quality of life and longevity.

Now, I’m pleased with these new recommendations overall, but I have to say that medications and surgery should not be first-line treatments. But rather only used when lifestyle changes don’t work.