Nancy Ellis-Ordway, PhD, LCSW
It is clear that Joe Gamm did a considerable amount of research for his Sunday article "Report: Surgery can help children overcome severe obesity," about the recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, I think he could have been more thorough. The National Eating Disorder Association released a policy statement on Nov. 4 expressing concern about the potential of irreparable harm to those children who have had or are at risk of developing eating disorders. In addition, insurance companies may be willing to cover bariatric surgery but not the postoperative supplemental and nutritional products necessary to avoid nutrient deficiencies that are a common complication of bariatric surgery and may lead to serious, permanent medical conditions. This especially increases the risk for low-income children.
Research is very limited concerning the long-term harmful outcomes of weight loss surgery in children. Data on adults repeatedly shows an increase in adverse mental health markers, including suicidality, and substance abuse, as well as serious nutritional deficiencies and medical complications.
Weight stigma, especially among health care professionals, correlates with adverse physical and mental health outcomes for higher weight people. Promoting weight loss surgery for children contributes to weight stigma.