New pediatric guidelines for treating obese children include surgery and meds

The American Academy of Pediatrics published guidelines for treating the 14.4 million U.S. children and teens afflicted by obesity on Monday.

The organization of 67,000 pediatricians recognized obesity as a “sensitive topic” that can be treated successfully by acknowledging it as a condition in which “complex” factors from genes to family income can play a factor.

Recommendations for kids as young as 2 include behavior and lifestyle changes including physical activity. As heavily overweight children enter their teens, those treatments as well as medications may be in order, along with surgical evaluation.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to treating the “complex issue” of obesity, wrote Dr. Sarah Hampl of University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, co-author of the new guidelines.

“Research tells us that we need to take a close look at families — where they live, their access to nutritious food, health care and opportunities for physical activity — as well as other factors that are associated with health, quality-of-life outcomes and risks,” she stated.

Monday’s recommendations from the AAP are its first comprehensive guidance on the issue in 15 years.

The AAP describes obesity as a “chronic disease that has been stigmatized for years and is associated with serious short and long-term health concerns when left untreated, including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.”

Other methods recommended by the AAP for treating obesity include nutrition support, behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy and bariatric surgery, which focuses on the stomach and intestines.

BMI — the index used to measure body mass — is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters, according to the CDC. The AAP states a BMI topping the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex constitutes obesity.

Monday’s study does not recommend “watchful waiting” for parents of obese children. A forthcoming AAP policy statement is expected to address obesity prevention.