New guidelines for treating childhood obesity have been released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for the first time in 15 years.
The current obesity epidemic has already prompted the CDC to update its BMI index charts, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
The percentage of U.S. children and adolescents affected by obesity has nearly quadrupled, rising from 5% between 1963 and 1965 to 19% between 2017 and 2018, according to the study, with prevalence increasing with age.
Exacerbated by the pandemic, the rate of weight gain nearly doubled in 2020 when compared with pre-pandemic years, according to one CDC report’s findings. Per CDC data, obesity affects nearly 15 million children and teenagers in the U.S.
“The medical costs of obesity on children, families, and our society as a whole are well-documented and require urgent action,” said Dr. Sarah Hampl, MD and a lead author of the guidelines, according to a press release.
“This is a complex issue, but there are multiple ways we can take steps to intervene now and help children and teens build the foundation for a long, healthy life,” she continued.
Texas stands as the 10th most obese state in the nation, with 20.7% of children ages 10-17 classified as obese in 2020-2021,
New recommendations from the AAP include motivational interviewing, intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment, pharmacotherapy, anti-obesity medication, and metabolic and bariatric surgery. The AAP claims that weight loss surgery is now “safe and effective” for pediatric patients.
The study notes that procedures such as Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and vertical sleeve gastrectomy result in significant and sustained weight loss as well as provide solutions to complications caused by obesity.
Alleviated issues include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease risk factors, and weight-related quality of life.
According to the press release, “Teens age 13 and older with severe obesity (BMI ≥120% of the 95th percentile for age and sex) should be evaluated for metabolic and bariatric surgery.”
Still, research conducted by the National Library of Medicine in 2022 champions exercise and dietary restrictions as the primary method of limiting obesity. These include aerobic and anaerobic exercise.
“Exercise/physical activity is a proven modality for treating the disease of overweight and obesity. However, management of this disease is best through dietary interventions and regular exercise,” said scientists in the study.
The new AAP guidelines also say that pediatricians should offer weight-loss drugs for children aged 12 and older who are obese.
Other approved medications for children include Orlistat, Exenatide, setmelanotide (brand name Imcivree), Phentermine, Topiramate, and Lisdexamfetamine.
“There is no evidence that ‘watchful waiting’ or delayed treatment is appropriate for children with obesity,” said Sandra Hassink, M.D., an author of the guideline and vice chair of the Clinical Practice Guideline Subcommittee on Obesity, according to the press release.
“The goal is to help patients make changes in lifestyle, behaviors or environment in a way that is sustainable and involves families in decision-making at every step of the way,” she continued.
These guidelines do not discuss obesity prevention strategies, however; they will be addressed in a later release.