For the first time, the US Pediatric Association is now specifically recommending appetite suppressant diet pills and gastric bypass surgery for adolescents 12 and older. Many doctors are certain: “The sooner you intervene, the better”.
The number of overweight children in America has almost doubled since 2020: Around 15 million of all two to 19-year-olds in the USA are considered overweight. In Germany, too, the number of young people with morbid obesity has increased significantly since the beginning of the pandemic. “Waiting and waiting doesn’t work,” mean US doctors now – the weight gain would then only continue to progress into adulthood.
“My daughter is 15 years old and weighs 414 pounds,” reports a user on the “Reddit” portal. “During physical education, she started having trouble breathing and I was called to school. We both burst into tears. She was desperate when she realized how overweight she actually is.” The mother blames herself, she continues: “It’s my fault. I’ve stuck my head in the sand for years. Now she is in the hospital and the doctors are very worried. She can barely walk and has to sleep with an oxygen mask.”
Her story is not a sad isolated case. According to figures from the US Department of Health, 16 percent of all children and adolescents in the US are currently overweight. Almost 20 percent are considered obese – and over six percent are severely obese. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese (morbid obesity).
“She was already overweight when she was four,” says a US father about his 13-year-old daughter. The Reddit user also describes himself and his wife as heavyweight. “We didn’t really notice it that much at first, but then we did from kindergarten. She loves sports. She really loves to play basketball.”
He and his wife have already tried everything, the desperate user continues to report: healthy eating and lots of exercise. “We always eat healthy meals at mealtimes and otherwise only have a few snacks at home. I really want to help my daughter. She is a wonderful person: beautiful and kind but so incredibly insecure. The only question is: what can we do?”
“The sooner you intervene, the better,” advises Joan Han, a specialist in childhood diabetes for the US broadcaster “NBCNews”. Early stomach reductions could even reverse health risks such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, says the doctor: “That’s why you should also consider surgery for young people.”
In addition to gastric bypass surgery, the US Pediatric Association is now recommending diet pills for children for the first time. Setmelanotide (the drug is on the market under the name Imcivree) has recently been approved for six-year-olds with genetic obesity – Orlistat, Saxenda, Qsymia and Wegovy are currently recommended for adolescents.
Originally intended for patients with diabetes, Wegovy now enjoys great popularity in the USA, especially as a weight loss product. Semaglutide is the main ingredient in Wegovy: the active ingredient with appetite-suppressing side effects was developed to treat type 2 diabetes. But now the run on the drug is so great that doctors and diabetics are complaining about an acute shortage of the drug.
Elon Musk and many other celebrities have been raving about their weight loss thanks to Wegovy for months. Rumor has it that reality stars Khloe and Kim Kardashian also owe their recently noticeably slimmer physiques to taking semaglutide.
The renowned “New England Journal of Medicine” has now also published studies showing that overweight young people can benefit from Wegovy: Children aged 12 and over who received Wegovy injections once a week reduced their BMI by 16 percent. In comparison: Adolescents who restricted themselves exclusively to sport and a healthy diet were only able to reduce their BMI by 0.5 percent.
“The only problem with these drugs is that they are extremely expensive and many health insurance companies do not pay for them,” says Han. Few families could afford $1,500 for a month’s supply of Wegovy.
However, studies show that overweight adolescents often suffer from heart disease, arthritis, strokes and breathing difficulties later in life as adults. “We then see a progressively progressive weight gain into adulthood,” said Ihuoma Eneli, a specialist in childhood morbid obesity, on US public broadcaster PBS. The doctor is certain: “Waiting and waiting just doesn’t work.”