While childhood obesity has become an epidemic, most experts emphasize diet and exercise as the keys to helping overweight kids regain their health while they lose the pounds. Now, however, a toddler has become the youngest person ever to undergo weight loss surgery, and the decision is causing a world-wide controversy, reported the Huffington Post on September 20.
Located in Saudi Arabia, the two-year-old weighed 73 pounds. After trying various other remedies, doctors decided on surgery to alleviate the toddler's weight-related sleep apnea and bowed legs. And the surgery was successful: Within two months of the procedure, the boy lost 15 percent of his weight. In two years, he weighed a relatively normal 50 pounds.
However, physicians not involved in the surgery are critical of the decision. Obesity expert Paul Zimmett described the case as "shocking" and "very unusual."
"We have no idea what effect this may have on the child's growth and unless he has proper follow up he may suffer vitamin deficiencies," he noted.
Seeking other views, CNN conducted a September 20 interview with Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta, who emphasized that weight loss surgery on such a young child should be an absolute last resort. However, she emphasized that sleep apnea can potentially lead to death from lack of oxygen.
"I think what (the doctors) are trying to say is this kid may not live without the surgery or without reversing that weight gain," said Dr. Shu, CNNHealth's Living Well expert doctor who is also a mother of two.
But some are concerned about the message in regard to the link between weight and health.
"Skinny is not an equation for health," said blogger and author Liz Henry, who contributed to "The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality." Liz told CNN that she considers this to be "unchartered territory and a dangerous precedent for still growing and maturing bodies."
"While this may be an extreme case, it can lead to other parents looking at the rubber-band wrists and pudgy thighs of their toddler and immediately seeking medical intervention that leads to irreversible harm," she said.
What do you think? With childhood obesity linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, prediabetes and related other physical and psychological ailments, should a child this young have weight loss surgery?