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For the study, a team led by Justin Ryder, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, analyzed how weight-loss surgery affected obese teens' ability to walk up to two years after their procedure.
The study involved 242 significantly obese teens who were 19 years old or younger and had weight-loss surgery between 2007 and 2012 at five U.S. bariatric surgery centers.
Gastric bypass (where a portion of the stomach is rerouted) was performed on 161 of the teens. The rest had either gastrectomy (removal of part of the stomach) or LAGB (laparoscopic adjustable gastric band), a procedure in which a band is placed around a portion of the stomach to make it smaller.
The researchers timed the teens as they walked roughly a quarter-mile before their surgery. They repeated the walking test six months, one year and two years after their weight-loss procedure.
Before and after each test, the researchers measured the teens' heart rates. The young people reported how much pain they felt while walking.
Just six months after surgery, the teens were able to walk faster and with less pain. Before surgery, they did the walk in 6.3 minutes, on average. Six months later, their average time dropped to 5.8 minutes. Their pre-walk resting heart rate also improved over that period from an average of 84 beats per minute to 74 beats per minute. Their post-walk heart rate dropped from an average of 128 beats per minute to 113 beats per minute, according to the study.
These improvements were also seen at one year and two years after surgery, the study published online July 18 in JAMA Pediatrics showed.
The study did not include a comparison group of teens who didn't have weight-loss surgery. Researchers said more study is needed to determine if the benefits of weight-loss surgery continue long-term and lead to additional health improvements.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
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SOURCE: JAMA Pediatrics, news release, July 18, 2016