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Teens achieve weight loss, health benefits with bariatric surgery

Bariatric surgery resulted in major weight loss and improvements in overall health and quality of life three years after the surgeries were performed in a group of teens with severe obesity, according to the latest findings of the Teen Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery, or Teen-LABS. The study, conducted at five U.S. clinical centers, was largely funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and published November 6 in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Teen-LABS enrolled people ages 13 to 19. The teens weighed an average weight of 328 pounds before surgery. Three years post-surgery, their weight decreased by an average of 90 pounds, or 27 percent, among 242 teens enrolled in Teen-LABS. The study found that 95 percent of the teens who had type 2 diabetes had reversal of their disease and 86 percent of those with kidney damage experienced improvements in kidney function. In addition, most of the participants with elevated blood pressure or lipid abnormalities saw improvements in their conditions. Additionally, 26 percent of the teens were no longer obese three years after surgery. Although a majority still had some level of obesity, not as many had severe obesity.

The study also identified some risks. During the study period, 13 percent of participants needed additional abdominal surgery, most commonly gallbladder removal. The study also found that while fewer than 5 percent of study participants were iron deficient before surgery, more than half had low iron stores three years later.

“Teens in this study had substantial health benefits three years after surgery, although we did identify risks,” said Mary Evans, Ph.D., NIDDK program director for Special Projects in Nutrition, Obesity, and Digestive Diseases. “Longer-term follow up will help us understand whether these health improvements are sustained and to determine if any additional risks emerge.”

Limitations of the study include that the majority of its participants were Caucasian females. However, these participants are representative of the patient group seeking surgery at participating clinical centers.

The results contribute important knowledge about the benefits and risks of bariatric surgery in adolescents. However, further research is critical to determine the long-term effects of bariatric surgery on health and well-being.

Teen-LABS (ClinicalTrials.gov No. NCT00474318) was funded by the NIDDK under grants DK072493 and UM1DK095710, with additional funding from the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the former National Center for Research Resources.

Media contact information: niddkmedia@niddk.nih.gov or (301) 496-3583.

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