Irish teenagers are going under the knife for weight loss surgery, as obesity hits unprecedented levels.
Clinically obese patients as young as 18 are seeking last-resort gastric band operations — made famous by Fern Britton and Sharon Osbourne — in a desperate bid to shed excess weight which is related to type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnoea, and depression.
The Auralia clinic — which carries out the majority of the country’s obesity-related surgeries — said they have seen a dramatic drop in the age of patients.
“The average age of patients coming in for gastric band surgery with us has dropped substantially, from 39 years old two years ago to 28 years old over the past year,” said the weight loss surgery co-ordinator at the Dublin clinic, David Keogh.
“We’ve never seen this sort of drop before and we have around 150 patients every year. It clearly shows that weight issues are coming into play for people far earlier in life than even only a year or two ago.
“We had one patient who came in recently two days after her 18th birthday. She had a very high BMI and had the surgery. She was desperate and waiting to become an adult to have it done.
“But we do decline more people between the age of 18 to 21 than all the other ages put together. Everyone is medically and psychologically evaluated.”
Alarming research from the private clinic shows the average weight of 18- to 21- year-olds arriving there has gone up by two stone in the last two years — from 18 stone 6lb in 2013 to 20 stone 4lb this year.
Mr Keogh said it shows their youngest patients are showing unprecedented levels of weight gain in childhood.
He said: “Over the last 12 months we would have seen teenage patients with higher weights than ever before.
“We’ve had 19- and 20-year-old girls with upwards of 24 stone. They would be very, very high weights. Around 90% of patients that age are above 20 stone compared to patients 30 years older than them coming in at five or six stone lighter.
“A lot of the younger patients need to lose 10 or 11 stone to get back down to their normal weight. With older patients it is generally five or six stone.
“If these patients are this weight at 19 or 20 years old what weight will they be in 10 years if they don’t have the operation? Our obesity rates are going to be astronomical.” And he said some teenagers have put on so much weight it is too late for surgical intervention.
“We’ve had patients we’ve had to decline under the age of 21 because they are medically unfit for the surgery. It’s too dangerous.”
He said research shows a lot of weight gain in the younger patients is down to unhealthy eating.
“It is Coke and other fizzy drinks and takeaways, particularly in the patient who goes to college. They would easily have four or five takeaways a week, minimum. They could go through 30 cans of coke in a week.”
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