Obesity is a worldwide epidemic that is prevalent in both adults and children. In the United States, the percentage of overweight or obese adults lands in the mid-70s. The statistics are not much better for children, with over 22 percent of kids ages 2 to 19 registering as obese on the BMI scale. This is not even counting the children who fall into the overweight category.
The situation was grave even before the COVID-19 lockdowns and has gotten worse. A recent publication from the CDC reported the jump in obesity cases that resulted from the pandemic. There has never been such a significant increase in adolescent obesity cases in such a short amount of time since the CDC began collecting data in 1970.
Alternately, the percentage of older adults with obesity has doubled over the past 30 years. Individuals who are over 65 years old represent about 12% of the current population in the United States. This number is predicted to grow to 20% by the year 2030. Since 1991, the obesity rate in people from 50 to 69 years old has risen to 22.9% (a 56% increase), and the obesity rate in elders over 70 years old has increased to 15% (a 36% increase).
Fortunately, there are surgeries and non-surgical procedures that can help obese individuals lose weight. There are several to choose from and it may be a challenge to compare the options. How do you know which procedure would be the best fit for your circumstances? What are the requirements for the different procedures? or Are there weight loss procedure age limits?
Today, we are going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding age requirements for surgical and non-surgical weight loss procedures.
What Weight Loss Procedures Are There For Obese Individuals?
Surgery or endoscopic techniques can be used for weight loss. It will be necessary for you to have a basic understanding of the different techniques in order to choose the one that best suits your circumstances. It is also important to have a general knowledge of any prerequisites, bariatric surgery age requirements, or conditions that may exclude you from a particular procedure.
- Surgical Weight Loss
- The different types of bariatric surgery include the following:
- Gastric lap band;
- Vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), also called gastric sleeve;
- Roux-en-Y or gastric bypass;
- Biliopancreatic Diversion with Duodenal Switch (BPD/DS) or Duodenal Switch.
What Requirements Must Be Met To Qualify For Bariatric Surgery?
The basic requirements to qualify for bariatric surgery pertain to how much you weigh and if you have health problems because of your weight. The universal BMI scale is used to place you into a category according to your body mass index, which is roughly determined by your height and weight. To qualify for bariatric surgery, the patient must meet one of the following criteria:
- The patient must have a BMI of 40 or higher;
- The individual must be at least 100 pounds overweight;
- The patient must have a body mass index of 35 or higher and suffer from one or more obesity-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, severe sleep apnea, etc.
Patients who are counting on their medical insurance to cover all or a portion of their bariatric surgery costs must also meet criteria specific to their insurance company.
At What Age Can You Get Weight Loss Surgery?
If you do a Google search for “age requirements for bariatric surgery,” you will get many different answers. The reason for this is that there is no hard-and-fast rule defining these parameters. Adolescents as young as 14 have undergone bariatric surgery, and there is an increasing number of patients undergoing weight loss surgery over the age of 65. Recently, an 80-year-old man had gastric sleeve surgery in India with no problems.
Patients who were 60 years of age or older received bariatric surgery and were monitored for a decade as part of Geisinger Medical Center research. These patients shed an average of more than 60% of their excess body weight within three years following surgery and nearly half (45.8%) of them no longer had diabetes. Additionally, the number of daily prescription medications that patients were taking decreased. The complication rate experienced by these older adults was comparable to that of younger patients.
Age Limits for Non-Surgical Weight Loss Procedures
Endoscopic weight loss procedures are becoming more popular as news of their great success spreads across social media channels and internet review forums. These procedures do not require any incisions and do not involve surgery or a hospital stay.
Endoscopic procedures are done through a special thin, flexible tool with an attached camera called an endoscope. The endoscope is lowered down the patient’s throat while they are under mild sedation. The endoscope’s hollow center allows the surgeon to lower other tools needed for the procedure down to the targeted area.
The qualifications for endoscopic procedures are not as stringent as those associated with bariatric surgery. Depending on the doctor and the procedure desired, a BMI of 27 to 30 is the standard required to qualify for the Orbera gastric balloon or endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty.
At What Age Can You Get The Orbera Balloon?
The Orbera intragastric balloon is a medical device that is made of soft silicone material and placed into a patient’s stomach to help them lose weight. Its basic purpose is to take up space, so the patient will have to limit their portions when they eat.
The balloon remains in the stomach for six months and during that time, the patient should make permanent lifestyle choices that promote maintaining a healthy weight. The patient is fully supported for an entire year, which includes six months after the balloon is removed. The support involves a team of professionals that provide guidance on nutrition, diet, exercise, accountability, and even emotional therapy if needed.
The reduced stomach capacity helps the patient lose weight because they cannot eat very much in one meal and feel “full” for longer. The smaller stomach works slower to digest the food and then empty it into the small intestine, so the food remains in the stomach for a longer time, offering prolonged satiety.
Gastric balloons have been used for adolescents as young as 11 years old in other parts of the world. In 2018, Dr. Ahmad Jazzar, a gastroenterologist from Abu Dhabi’s government hospital, began offering gastric balloon procedures for 13- to 16-year-olds, but other children who weighed between 88 kg (194 pounds) and 127 kg (279 pounds) are also eligible.
The Orbera intragastric balloon manufacturer’s website states that you must be an adult and have a BMI of at least 30 to be eligible for the Orbera balloon procedure.
At What Age Can You Get Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty?
ESG is a non-surgical procedure that results in a smaller stomach, similar to bariatric gastric sleeve surgery. The procedure is performed through an endoscope and there are no incisions made.
During the procedure, a special suturing device is lowered down the endoscope and is used to place up to a dozen stitches in the patient’s stomach to resize and reshape it into a smaller, sleeve-like pouch. Unlike gastric sleeve surgery, no portion of the patient’s stomach is excised and removed; it is only manipulated into a new shape and stitched in place. ESG can be reversed if necessary.
Endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty is effective for weight loss because the reduced stomach capacity limits the amount of food the patient can eat at one time and allows them to feel fuller for longer. ESG is often used for patients who do not qualify for bariatric surgery due to health reasons or who do not wish to have surgery.
Many studies have been conducted about the safety of gastric sleeve surgery performed on adolescents. ESG offers even lower risks and a more favorable safety profile than surgery, so it would make sense that ESG would be an excellent choice as an obesity treatment for younger patients.
The results of a study that included 109 patients ages 10 to 21 determined that ESG is a safe and effective procedure to treat adolescents and children with obesity. These younger patients lost an average of 80% of their excess weight during the first year. During the study, none of the participants had to undergo an emergency admission or have a blood transfusion and no significant morbidities occurred.
Is 65 Too Old For Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty?
Another study was conducted with patients who were 65 years of age and older, with the median age being 67 years. After the ESG procedure, half of the patients with hypertension and 34 of the patients with diabetes reduced or eliminated their medication, and two out of the six patients with OSA were able to stop therapy with CPAP. There were no adverse events recorded.
ESG falls somewhere between medical management and bariatric surgery and offers an excellent alternative to treat obesity for a wide age range of patients.
How Do They Determine Age Limits For Weight Loss Procedures?
Undergoing bariatric surgery or an endoscopic weight loss procedure changes the patient’s life forever. In some cases, the changes made are permanent and the patient must change their eating habits and lifestyles significantly or risk other health issues.
More important than the patient’s chronological age is their emotional maturity and whether or not they are prepared to do what it takes to sustain their weight loss and preserve their health. The patient must fully understand what the surgery or procedure will require from them long-term and be willing and ready to accept the responsibility that comes with it.
The qualifying age for bariatric surgery or endoscopic weight loss procedures can vary by the doctor, geographic location, procedure technique, patient circumstances, etc.
A careful, collaborative decision-making process involving the patient, parent(s) or guardian(s), and medical and surgical providers should be carried out when considering a weight loss procedure for younger patients.
If you would like to learn more about non-surgical weight loss procedures and which may be a good fit for you, contact Simmons Advanced Weight Loss Solutions. Our experts are highly skilled in obesity management and are here to help you reach your weight loss goals. Set up an appointment and take that first step to better health!