(WXYZ) – Childhood obesity is increasing at an alarming rate. According to a 2021 CDC report, about 20% of children aged 2-19 are obese, and about 6% are severely obese.
In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics is issuing updated guidelines for the treatment of childhood obesity.
It’s a comprehensive update, but one aspect is stirring up controversy — medication and permanent weight loss surgery for kids as young as middle school.
Oakland County native Maeve Everett’s weight loss journey has made her a Tik Tok star.
Everett said, “I posted a video on Tik Tok less than a year ago today, and it blew up overnight.”
Getting 25 million likes.
“What started you on this journey?” I asked.
“I think that motivation to just be healthy and really feel better about myself,” she said.
Maeve says weight has been a struggle for as long as she can remember. It was during the COVID-19 lockdown that she focused on eating better and moving more.
“The main thing for your health is the food you put into your body. As much as you exercise, you can’t make up for a bad diet,” she said.
According to the CDC, approximately 15 million American children are obese. In response, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines for the first time in more than a decade.
Dr. Zeina Al-Rufai is a Shelby pediatrician and obesity medicine specialist in Shelby Township. She says the guidelines focus mostly on lifestyle management, but when that fails suggests using medication and pediatric weight loss surgery for kids as young as middle school.
They usually have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease, she said.
“We want to make a huge effort to work with the first families and try to prevent these things from happening,” Al-Rufai said.
But the use of medicine or permanent surgery in children is causing a backlash. Some say the guidelines are, “barking up the wrong tree.” Others say, “These recommendations fire me up….I worry that the new focus will lead to eating disorders.”
Dr. Jaime Taylor is the Director of Adolescent Medicine at Beaumont Children’s. She says she has seen unhealthy “ideal weight” patients and healthy patients with larger bodies. He is concerned about making lasting changes to still-developing children.
“Especially 12 and 13-year-olds, many of them haven’t finished the process of puberty,” Taylor said.
She says weight-loss surgery can change how kids get the nutrients they need to grow, and using medication to lose weight is a long-term commitment. There are sticky ethical issues to be resolved by the patient, provider, and parent, according to clinical ethicist Abraham Brummett.
“Ultimately, it’s the parents that are going to have the legal authority to, you know, allow for these types of invasive procedures,” Brummett said.
All the health experts in this story say that the use of medication or surgery for weight loss is only to counteract the long-term negative complications of obesity.
They say that the lifestyle choices made by Meow are always the first step to weight management.